#468 - March 14, 1997

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Full issue

Explosion at PNC Tokai reprocessing plant

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(March 14, 1997) On 11 March, at around 8:14pm (local time), an explosion occurred at the nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in Tokai-mura (Ibaragi Prefecture, east Japan). It took place in a building of Bitumen Solidification Facility, where low-level liquid radioactive waste is treated. Windows and doorway shutters were blown off by the explosion.

(468.4653) WISE-Amsterdam - The accident followed the small fire that had started in the same building earlier (at around 10am). It is likely that the extinguishment of the fire was not complete.

The explosion occurred in the room where workers combine low-level nuclear waste liquid with asphalt and put them into drums, according to Donen (PNC) officials. The explosion blew a door open, allowing radioactivity to escape from the plant, according to the findings of a Donen survey team that inspected the explosion site. One employee on the team was quoted as saying, "(The room) was damaged more severely than we had expected." The cause of the explosion has not been determined. Donen released 30 minutes of unedited videotape footage of the explosion site shot 3 hours after the explosion, and it showed the door was still open.

The function of the bituminization facility is to solidify condensed nuclear waste, combine it with asphalt and put the material into drums. Asphalt catches fire at about 250 degrees centrigade. The facility is designed to allow the temperature to rise no higher than 195 degrees, but the temperature control mechanism failed, Donen officials said.

PNC officials said that as of 12 March 4:40am, 21 workers had been exposed to radioactivity in the morning fire and later explosion at the facilty. However, Dutch radio news on the same day, claimed 35 workers inhaled radioactivity. Donen is forbidding entry to a 10,000-square-meter area around the facility, even though according to them, radioactivity in the area returned to normal levels on wednesday morning.

No confidence in government.
This accident is another blow for the Japanese nuclear society. After the sodium fire at the Monju Fast Breeder Reactor in December 1995, protest increased and public support for nuclear energy decreased.

More than one-half of all Japanese citizens have lost confidence in their government's statements concerning the safety of nuclear power, according to the latest survey conducted by the Research Council for Energy and Information Technology, in October last year. The figures, which showed that 57% of people surveyed had little or no confidence in government statements on nuclear energy, comprise the lowest vote of confidence since the surveys began.

Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto criticized Donen officials' failure to notify the Science and Technology Agency of the emergencies promptly. Donen notified the agency about the fire at 10:40am, 30 minutes after the fire broke out. Hashimoto said that Donen should have notified the agency immediately after the fire broke out instead of waiting while they inspected the fire site.

Also on 11 March, the utility Kyushu Electric Power Co. withdrew plans to built two pressurized-water reactors at Kushima. Kyushu originally thought the location was very promising. But in October 1993, the municipal assembly initiated a law requiring a referendum to be held. The project was "mothballed" since then. Company officials say that the withdrawel is a consequence of strong opposition from local residents and fear for the outcome of a referendum to be held this summer. In August a referendum was held at Maki town. Sixty percent of teh voters said "No!" to the proposed construction of a four-unit nuclear reactor complex. (see WISE NC 457.4527).


  • Magpie Country Nukes Headliner #970311, 11 March 1997
  • Asahi Shimbun (Japan), English internet version, 12 March 1997
  • Dutch radio broadcast news, 12 March (12am, local time)
  • The Nikkei Weekly (Japan), 3 March 1997

Contact: WISE Tokyo

Finnish utility chief proposes building new N-plant

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
(March 14, 1997) The president of Finland's IVO power utility says his company now favors building a new nuclear power station to compensate for the loss of power which would result from the closure of Sweden's Barsebaeck nuclear plant (see WISE 467.4638).

(468.4657) Vladimir Slyviak -Kalevi Numminen said the overall electrical capacity deficit which could be anticipated as a result of the Swedish decision would resurrect the issue of the need for new nuclear capacity in Finland. He said that in the current circumstances, IVO would be ready to participate in preparing a new nuclear power plant project, provided the government and parliament gave "sufficient" guarantees that the project would be implemented. He said the initiative would have to come from politicians. Social Democrat Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen said his coalition would not endorse any such proposal in the Eduskunta (parliament).

According to Numminen, net imports of electricity (from Russia and Sweden) is about 8 percent of the total amount consumed in Finland.

As a result of the Swedish decision, IVO would bring forward plans to build new power capacity. IVO was already planning to build a large-scale coal- or gas-fired plant. A new fossil-fired plant construction - unlike nuclear - is not dependent on prior parliamentary approval.

There have been growing indications over the last year or two that a new nuclear construction project might now win parliamentary approval. A major newspaper reported in December 1995 that 110 of the country's 200 members of parliament would support building additional nuclear capacity.

In September 1993, parliament voted by 107 to 90 to reject plans for a fifth Finnish nuclear power reactor, despite government approval for the project (see WISE NC 400/1.3903).

However, a new opinion poll published in January 1997 revealed that still 50 percent of the Finns are opposing building new nuclear capacity while 46 percent is in favour. This number is slowly growing. Last year it was 38% in favor and 58 percent against.


  • Ecodefense (Russia) #110, February 1997
  • Power In Europe, 14 February 1997

Contact: Wise Stockholm


Free language training and non-profit internships in the West working on energy policy

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(March 14, 1997) The FAIRE program is looking for persons who are interested in making a career out of reforming energy policy in their home countries through activism and/or analysis.

(468.4661) WISE Amsterdam -Working with an international network of energy experts from non-profit organizations, the FAIRE program works to accelerate the phaseout of nuclear power through the rational implemention of clean energy solutions. FAIRE stands for Free and Applied Internships in Renewables and Efficiency. FAIRE is an internship program designed to improve the capacity for international cooperation among activists working on energy issues in the nuclear countries of Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

The FAIRE program includes a three-month intensive program in the English language in Budapest, followed by a three- to six-month internship with a non-profit organization in Western Europe or the US. In the final stage of the program, interns will develop and implement a project or campaign in their home countries, with the support of their new international partners. All travel, housing and other program-related expenses will be covered by FAIRE, and interns will receive a stipend during their participation in the program, including expenses for at least six months after returning to their home countries.

The deadline for receiving applications is on April 30, 1997. The program starts on Sept. 1, 1997.

Application forms and more information can be requested from Kriszta Szabados or Ada Amon at the Energy Club in Budapest:
P.O. Box 411, Budapest, Hungary.
Tel./fax: +36 1 1668866.
E-mail: kriszta@nuke.zpok.hu

Gorleben international peace team founded

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(March 14, 1997) The first-ever Gorleben International Peace Team (GIPT) was assembled in Wustrow, Germany, at February 20, 1997.

(468.4663 ) WISE Amsterdam -During an intensive five-day training, the team created a working mandate that defined GIPT as a non-partisan observation team which will focus on observing, documenting and photographing the human rights situation before and during the anti-Castor demonstrations in the area of Gorleben. The GIPT did not serve as a mediator between the police and the demonstrators, and neither did it attempt to actively deescalate the situation, although it was hoped that a known international presence would help reduce the tension. The main goals of the team will be to write a report of its observations which will be shared with organizations working at the local, national and international level, and to produce an evaluation of the experiences of this team in order to determine if GIPT is a project that should be continued in the future.

Source and Contact: Gorleben International Peace Team, Kirchstr. 14, 29462 Wustrow, Germany.
Tel: +49-5843-7716
E-mail: 106573.2254@compuserve.com

High level N-waste shipped to Gorleben, Germany

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(March 14, 1997) At 6 p.m. local time on Wednesday, March 5, six Castor containers with high-level radioactive waste arrived in the interim storage facility near Gorleben, Germany. Three of them contained waste from reprocessed fuel returning from La Hague, France, while the others contained spent fuel from two German reactors, Neckarwestheim and Gundremmingen. The shipment was guarded by about 30,000 policemen, the biggest single police action in German post-war history.

(468.4654) WISE-Amsterdam -It was the third transport of high-level waste to Gorleben (see WISE NC 452.4476). All throughout the route there were blockades and people demonstrating, among them 2,000 in Neckarwestheim.

On February 27 there was a debate in the German Parliament in which conservative politicians labelled the resistance criminal: "Who calls for non-violent protest must know that he encourages violence," German Minister for Domestic Affairs Manfred Kanther said. Guido Westerwelle, secretary general of the Liberals, called the Green Party "the soil on which violence grows".

On Saturday, March 1, about 20,000 demonstrators gathered in Lueneburg, a city near Gorleben, to protest against the transport. Local farmers on Sunday organized a so-called "Skunk Parade" of 573 trucks to the station in Danneberg, where the casks were carried over from the train to trucks, which went the last kilometers to the dump site. About 10,000 people joined the farmers.

Along the routes from the station in Danneberg to the dump site in Gorleben, several camps were erected for thousands of people waiting for the Castors. There were camps of the militant, so- called "Autonomous" groups. Motorbike freaks gathered in one place. A "Woman/Lesbian" camp could be found, and another one of non- violent demonstrators.

On Friday, February 28, the Castors arrived from the three locations at the site of the southern German city of Walheim. On Monday morning they headed for Dannenberg. People along the whole route tried to stop the train. Some 30 kilometers before arriving, the train had to stop: two activists lay on the tracks. They had used concrete to fix their arms on the rails. It took the police some hours to remove them. With a delay of eight hours, the Castors arrived by train at Danneberg station at 2 a.m. of Tuesday. That day they were loaded onto the trucks.

As the police needed accommodations, they planned to seize five gymnasiums, but pupils occupied three of the gymnasiums in the Danneberg area. The police agreed not to stay in Danneberg and the pupils left the building. The two others were peacefully cleared by the police.

On Monday, March 1, the police themselves caused a little accident, when two water cannons hit each other and were totally destroyed. Seven policemen were injured. Actually, the activists, seemed more skilled. In the nights before the shipment arrived, they had dug several tunnels under the road, making it too unstable for the heavy casks. After the police recognized the massive blockades and road destructions, they choose an alternative route. Though the activists had also succeeded in digging this road, too, the police could occupy the street and repair it on time.

On Wednesday, the only effective blockade remained was the one directly in front of the station, from which the trucks were to leave. Around 7,000 people sat on about 500 meters of street. At around 1 o'clock in the morning the police began to take the people away. Although the demonstrators remained peaceful, water cannons were used, but without much success, as the people used huge water- proof sheets to protect themselves. (Because of the bad press they got last year, the police did not use the water cannons with high pressure and did not mix CS-gas in the water, which they did the last time.) Altogether it took nine hours to clear this 500 meters of road. Four people had chained themselves on a rope they had tied over the street. The police was neither allowed nor able to remove them. Finally, after a long wait, the transport moved forward. One of the activists jumped on a truck which carried a Castor and was then arrested.

The estimated costs of the police actions are between DM100 million and DM150 million (US$70million to 100 million). The transport last year had cost more than US$60 million. The minister for domestic affairs of Lower Saxony, Glogowski, urged that this shipment be the last one.

Source: Die Tageszeitung (FRG) 28 February, 1/2, 3, 4 March 1997
Contact: BI Luechow-Dannenberg, Drahwehner Str. 2, 29439 Luechow, Germany
Tel: +49-5841-4684
Fax: +49-5841-3197

Higher burnup - bigger problems

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(March 14, 1997) In their attempt to achieve lower production costs, nuclear utilities have gone to ever-increasing burn-up of nuclear fuel. Ten years ago, a burn-up of 25 MegaWattDay per kg fuel (MWD/kg) was normal. Nowadays, many Pressurized Water Reactors (PWRs) reach burn-ups from 40-60 MWD/kg fuel. To make this possible, the enrichment grades of the fuel have risen from about 3 percent uranium-235 to 4 percent, or more U-235 currently. This development may offer economic advantages, but also raises more risks.

(468.4659) WISE-Amsterdam - In the last few years, many PWRs experienced serious safety problems [See table I]. A higher burn-up leads to more radiation, which leads to more corrosion of the fuel rods and to deformation of the rods, such as swelling, bowing or rupture. Deformed fuel rods could hinder the flow of cooling water. Moreover, control rods stick between the fuel rods which can lead to dangerous situations. Control rods have as function to regulate the reactivity of the fuel: when the reactivity increases, the control rods are inserted deeper into the core. The control rods absorb neutrons which would otherwise lead to more fissions and to higher reactivity. Sticking control rods could eventually lead to a core melt in cases of Reactivity Insertion Accidents.


Table I; Some PWRs with burn-up problems
US Wolf Creek
North Anna
South Texas 1
Belgium Tihange 3
Doel 4
France Belleville 1
Paluel 3
Nogent 1
Sweden Ringhals 1
Spain Almaraz

The nuclear industry only set up a research and test program, after problems with high burn-up fuels and sticking control rods had appeared. In 1993, a four-year test program was started in the Cabri Research Reactor in Cadarache, France. The $52 million program is financed by research institutes in France, the US and Japan and has as objective to evaluate the maximum discharge burn-up for both enriched uranium oxide and plutonium-enriched Mixed Oxide (MOX). During the first test in November 1993 the fuel failed much sooner, and at much lower energy levels than expected, and demonstrated the need to review the safety criteria for high burn- up oxide fuels. This led the French safety organization IPSN (Institute for Safety and Protection) to refuse a license to the Electricite de France (EdF, the French electricy company) to increase the burn-up for their 900 MW PWRs from 47 to 52 MWD/kg.

The nuclear regulatory agency DSIN asked EdF to write a comprehensive report about its future fuel plans, such as fuel with higher enrichment, using MOX fuel and Recycled Uranium (REPU) fuel and for management of spent fuel.

A recent test at the Cabri reactor with MOX fuel on January 24, 1997, resulted in a violent rupture of the fuel clad. If this rupture is connected with the use of MOX, it would be bad news for utilities and the MOX fuel industry. In France the DSIN said it needs more information about the MOX fuel test, in connection with its examination of EdF's application to use MOX with a higher burn-up. The current burn-up limit on MOX fuel in France is about 40 MWD/kg, which is an economic disadvantage compared to uranium fuel. Therefore, the EdF wants to use MOX with a burn-up of 47 MWD/kg. This year another MOX fuel test is planned in the Cabri reactor. IPSN has proposed another $63 million internationally funded test program, which could begin only in 1999. Till that time, no decisions on higher burn-up will be made by safety regulators.

The EdF has ordered the replacement of fuel rods, after the problems with control rod sticking at Paluel in 1995 and 1996 and at Nogent-1 and Belleville-1 in 1996. The control rods did not drop as quickly or as far as desired or they failed to rise again. The DSIN asked EdF to conduct three control rod drop tests at Paluel and to refrain from load-following, to avoid unnecessary control rod movement. The DSIN ordered EdF to fulfill a three-page list of detailed requirements before approving the re-start of Belleville- 1. The EdF must measure the fuel deformation, the drop time, and the forces to raise and lower the control rods. The DSIN noted that there was as yet "no definitive explanation" of the problem in France or elsewhere. [NF No. 26, December 16, 1996, p.12]. The EdF says that if it cannot use fuel with burn-ups of more than 47 MWD/kg, "nuclear (energy) will have lost its bet" to be a competitive energy source at the beginning of the 21st century.

Tests on high burn-up fuel have also been done in recent years in Russia and Japan, but not yet in the US. The NRC is now planning a research program at Argonne National Laboratory in which high burn-up fuel cladding is exposed to a simulation of a Loss-Of-Coolant Accident. The NRC is concerned about the recent fuel deformation problems at Wolf Creek and North Anna. At Wolf Creek the problems increased with higher burn-up.

In the Japanese test reactor NSRR there have been another two fuel ruptures with fuel burn-up of more than 50 MWD/kg.

Internationally, the majority of a Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) expert group concluded that more research was needed on the role of fission gas releases, on failure modes and the role of fuel-clad corrosion. A plenary NEA meeting agreed there is need for further research on the behavior of high burn-up fuel in so-called Reactivity Insertion Accidents (RIA).

Possible explanations for fuel bowing and control rod sticking are: fuel rods with more than one enrichment level, which may lead to higher-than-expected peak burn-ups and to weakening of the fuel; corrosion deposits on guide tubes. Another concern of the NEA is that increasing economic competition among utilities could lead to withholding of technical information needed to resolve problems as fuel bowing.

In the Netherlands, EPZ, the owner of the Borssele PWR, asked for a license to raise the burn-up of their fuel from 33 GWD to 50 GWd/kg. The Ministry of Economic Affairs applied the license on December 20, 1996. One of the consequences is an increase of the emission of tritium into water and air by 20 percent. In this case, too, the justification is better economics.

However, the EPZ gives no information on the amount of the profit. At the moment, Borssele is being modified to increase the safety level at a cost of 470 million Dutch guilders (about $250 million). The introduction of higher burn-up fuel, however, increases the risks again. The anti-nuclear movement should fight this dangerous development everywhere. More information about problems with high burn-up fuel is welcome.


  • Nuclear Fuel, 7 November 1994 p.1
  • Nuclear Fuel, 16 December 1996 p.12-14
  • Nuclear Fuel, 29 July 1996 p.9-11
  • Nuclear Fuel, 10 February 1997 p.13-14
  • Nuclear Fuel, 2 December 1996 p.16-18
  • Nuclear Fuel, 16 December 1996 p.12-14

Contact: Joop Boer at WISE Amsterdam


In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

Indonesia passes legislation to allow nuclear plants.

(March 14, 1997) Following a four-year feasibility study completed last May, Indonesia's parliament passed legislation on February 26, to regulate the development of commercial nuclear power in the country. Up to 12 plants are contemplated.
Speaking at the Darwin Uranium '97 conference, Professor A. Djaloeis, deputy director general of BATAN, said that nuclear power along with coal was important to Indonesia's energy security for sustainable economic development. Any imported nuclear power plants must be licensable in the vendor's country, must not exceed a five-year construction time, and should have burn-up capability of 60,000 MW/day per ton of fuel. The Westinghouse AP-600 advanced reactor appears to be the leading contender at this stage.
MANI, the Indonesian Anti-Nuclear Society, is disappointed with the new law in that it makes no reference to the country's existing laws on environmental protection, electricity generation or industry. MANI also fears that the new law was designed to ensure that a nuclear power station would be built without public consultation.
UIC Weekly News 28 February / UI News Briefing 97.09, 4 March 1997

Ukraine: restart Chernobyl-2: According to recent announcements by Goskomatom chairman Viktor Chebrov, the second unit of Chernobyl has been authorized to restart by the end of 1997. He said Chernobyl-2 is due to be restarted in the final quarter of 1997 and would be capable of earning revenues of US$50 million to $60 million per year. Chernobyl-2 has been shut down since a turbine fire in 1991.
Chebrov also said that Goskomatom has 'serious plans' for exporting electricity to Western Europe as well as to Turkey and Eastern Europe.
Uranium Institute News Briefing 97.08; 19-25 February 1997

EU court affirms CIS Uranium-import restriction: The European Union's (EU) Court of First Instance in Luxembourg ruled that the Euratom Supply Agency (ESA) is justified in restricting purchases of low-cost Russian uranium by EU utilities. The court case arose from ESA's decision in December 1993 that a contract between the German Kernkraftwerk Lingen-Ems GmbH and British Nuclear Fuels plc could not include material originating from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). The Lingen reactor was planning to import 400 tons of natural uranium from Russia. It tried to do that through BNFL, but ESA became aware of it and that was the end of the deal. According to ESA regulations, only a quarter of the reactors' uranium import is allowed to come from countries in the former Soviet Union. And because Lingen had already used up its quota, approval was not given. While ESA's right to restrict imports of CIS-origin uranium was being upheld in court, the European Commission and the Russian Ministry of Atomic Power, Minatom, agreed to set up a working group to examine nuclear trade between Russia and the EU. The issues under discussion include securing a supply of Russian high-enriched uranium for use in European research reactors and allowing more Russian-origin natural uranium into the European Union.
Uranium Institute News Briefing 97.09: 26 February - 4 March 1997 / DieTageszeitung(FRG), 26 February 1997

Reprocessing in Australia: Australian Science and Technology Minister Mr. McGauran has confirmed that the Cabinet is considering construction of a small reprocessing and waste treatment plant in Australia for spent fuel from the 39-year- old HIFAR research reactor at Lucas Heights, Sydney. Storage space for spent fuel rods is close to capacity. Some spent fuel has been shipped to Dounreay, Scotland, for reprocessing, and a similar arrangement pertains with the US for fuel supplied from there. Part of the proposal involves developing the Australian-invented Synroc technology to immobilize the separated or intermediate-level wastes after reprocessing. There is an argument that reprocessing in Australia would be cheaper than sending the balance of the fuel overseas for reprocessing, and completing the development of Synroc would make it commercially available in a growing market for such technology, not only for high-level waste but also plutonium immobilization.
Uranium Information Centre, Melbourne Australia, Weekly News 7 March 1997

US: Video equipment returned radioactive. A video equipment Northeast Utilities had rented from C & G Video to monitor work evolutions in the radiologically controlled area of its Connecticut Yankee nuclear power plant was radioactively contaminated when returned. After the video firm had informed Northeast Utilities about that fact, they sent some experts to investigate the case. They acknowledged the contamination, but denied any danger.
Reuter, 28 February 1997

UK N-tests: Government acted illegally and dishonestly. During 1957 and 1958 British soldiers were exposed to nuclear radiation during atomic bomb tests by the British on Christmas Island (Australia). The past 10 years the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has refused to pay compensation to the veterans who have since got cancer. In a detailed report, the European Commission of Human Rights concluded that the UK government breached Articles 6 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Article 6 states that "everyone has the right to a fair and public hearing", while Article 8 says that "everyone has the right to respect for his private life". The report says the government deprived the veterans of information about radiation levels vital to fighting the refusal of compensation, for reasons of national security. Two studies in 1988 and 1993 by the MoD claim that the veterans suffered no detectable increase in risk of contracting cancer, although these studies have been criticized by a US advisory committee. That committee argues the veterans should be compensated. The US government paid more than $25 million to 676 people from the Marshall Islands who were farther away from smaller tests than the UK veterans. The UK government paid œ20 million to people exposed to nuclear tests on the Australian continent. The veterans' claims have now referred to the European Court of Human Rights inStrasbourg.
New Scientist, 8 February 1997

NIRS to begin grant program to Eastern grass-roots groups

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(March 14, 1997) The Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS) is launching a new project to assist grassroots anti-nuclear groups in Eastern Europe and the Newly Independent States.

(468.4662) NIRS -One part of this project is a direct grant program to grassroots groups based in those countries.

Grants will be in the $500-2,000 range, and the first grants are planned to be made in mid-late Spring 1997. To apply for a grant, please send a one-two page proposal including:

  1. name of organization and contact information
  2. brief description of your organization
  3. description of the project you wish funded
  4. statement describing the importance of this project

Only anti-nuclear activities will be funded. Preference will begiven to action-oriented and organizing projects. Only Eastern-based groups will be funded; western groups working in the East are not eligible. Applications must be in English.

The application deadline date is April 15, 1997.

Send your application by E-mail (preferred) to nirsnet@igc.apc.org
or by fax: +1-202-462-2183
or by regular mail to Michael Mariotte, NIRS, 1424 16th Street NW, #404, Washington DC 20036 USA.


Proliferation and explosion dangers in Belgrade

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(March 14, 1997) Forty kilograms (kg) of fresh high-enriched uranium (HEU) and forty kg of heavily corroded HEU are stored at the Vinca Institute of Nuclear Sciences, Belgrade Servia. Officials said they want the fresh HEU to be taken out of Servia to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands, for example into the hands of political desperados.

(468.4655) WISE-Amsterdam -The HEU, enriched to 80 percent Uranium-235, was supplied after 1976 by the ex-USSR to the so-called RA research reactor at the Vinca Institute. The reactor was closed in 1984. Neither the IAEA nor the US want to remove the HEU because of limited diplomatic recognition of the Milosevic government.

In 1973 a safeguard agreement came into force between Yugoslavia and the IAEA, which covers the HEU. The IAEA continues to safeguard the fuel, but on a very limited scale: the IAEA inspects the fuel only one day a month. In the view of Vinca experts, Russia bears prime responsibility for the problem, since it was the supplier. The commercial terms of the sale provided for Soviet takeback of the fuel. The Russia's Ministry of Atomic Energy (Minatom) also refuses to take back the material.

The 40 kg of spent HEU fuel is stored in four basins with 200 m3 of water. The greatest immediate threat is that the spent fuel may explode or burn, releasing its radioactive inventory. Hydrogen gas is building up inside the canisters holding the damaged fuel. Officials say the spent fuel could collapse into the bottom of the pool and cause a critical accident. Measures by the IAEA showed a radiation level of 126 Becquerel per milliliter in Cesium-137. A new danger is the formation of highly flammable uranium hydride on the surface of the exposed HEU fuel. If this continues, the fuel inside the pool could start a fire.

Millions of dollars are needed to eliminate the danger. The IAEA cannot spend the necessary money, since the UN refuses to recognize fully the Milosevic government.

Tito's bomb
Diplomatic sources said that the RA reactor and hot cells at the Institute were part of a nuclear development effort by the late Yugoslavian President Josip Broz Tito as a basis for a nuclear weapons program. IAEA experts will investigate reports which say that plutonium separation may have taken place at Vinca about three decades ago. US government documents show that less than one kg of plutonium-239 has been separated in hot cells. The IAEA asked clarification from the government of the former Yugoslavia. The plutoniun separation should have been reported under the IAEA safeguard agreement. If not, it is a violation of the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which Yugoslavia signed in 1970. The IAEA is internally divided what to do. Some do not want to put too much pressure to take action, because of the country's former leading role in the non-aligned movement (NAM): Tito is still seen as a respected leader. In addition, it is feared that IAEA or UN pressure on Milosevic, who faces domestic opposition, would have unpredictable results. Other officials at IAEA want to get to the bottom of this case. They put this plutonium program on one line with the secret plutonium programs of Iraq and Romania. Iraq separated about five grams of plutonium before the Gulf War. Romania also produced plutonium under Ceausescu. So in three cases NPT member states carried out clandestine plutonium production, motivated by interest in nuclear weapons.


  • Nuclear Fuel (NF) 10 and 24 February 1997
  • Nucleonics Week, 27 February 1997

Contact: Laka, ketelhuisplein 43, 1054 RD Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Tel: +31- 20-6168294
Fax: +31-20-6892179
E-mail: laka@antenna.nl

Rad-waste for food? Taiwan looks to North Korea for nuclear relief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(March 14, 1997) There was outrage in capitalist South Korea when the (government owned) Taiwan Power Company announced that it had signed a contract with North Korea on January 11, 1997 to ship 200,000 barrels of low-level waste to North Korea from as early as March 1997.

(468.4660) Anna Gyorgy /Green Korea -The contract called for an initial shipment of 60,000 barrels within the first two years. The North reported that it would receive US $1,150 per barrel, "in addition to an undisclosed lump sum for site preparation and shipping (assuming North Korean freighters are used)." This is foreign exchange that economically isolated North Korea badly needs. (see WISE NC 466.4628)

The South Korean government quickly condemned the plan, without mentioning its own radioactive waste woes. And Korea's dynamic environmental and other civic groups quickly responded with a series of actions ranging from an initial burning of the Taiwanese flag (later rejected as too provocative a tactic in a region where nationalist sentiments run strong) to signature gathering and demonstrations, some, as on February 14, coordinated world-wide, with demonstrations taking part at Taiwanese missions in Asia, Europe and the US. Anti-nuclear groups opposed the deal - the first time that one country has attempted to "dispose" of its rad-waste permanently in another - as a form of "environmental imperialism."

In late January six Green Korea activists flew to Taipei to hold a week-long hunger strike in front of the state-owned Taiwan Power Company ("Taipower") headquarters in Taipei to oppose the planned shipments. Their action was supported by and coordinated with the Taiwan Environmental Protection Union (TEPU), which has long opposed nuclear construction in Taiwan and past government plans for waste storage. Green Korea and TEPU called on their countries to offer technological and economic assistance to North Korea, instead of "selling" them nuclear waste. After two days the peaceful group, seated in front of Taipower with banners against the waste export, was assaulted by ultra-rightwing Chinese-Taiwanese nationalists as police stood by. Later that day the Koreans were expelled from Taiwan, and continued their protest in front of the Taiwanese representative office in downtown Seoul.

Meanwhile, Taiwanese environmental activists continued the protest in front of Taipower, issuing a statement that read in part: "If Taiwan is incapable of managing the nuclear waste problems, it should not develop nuclear power. The Taiwan government must terminate construction of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant and immediately stop operating the No. 1, 2 and 3 nuclear power plants. The only way to solve the nuclear waste problem is not to produce wastes in the first place."

Taiwan: with democracy, opposition to nuclear power
Taiwan's nuclear program was developed under a tightly-controlled authoritarian regime. "As Taiwan society gradually became more and more liberalized," the president of TEPU reported to the No Nukes Asia Forum in 1995, "the people ceased their silence. In 1984, the building of nuclear power plant #4 was proposed, and it received open criticism from congressmen. Yet little attention was paid until the nuclear disaster of Chernobyl in 1986."

Since 1982 the state-owned Taipower has shipped low and mid-level nuclear waste from its three nuclear power plants to the Long-men Nuclear Waste Depository on Orchid Island. Also called Lan Yu, this beautiful island off Taiwan's southern coast has a unique ecosystem and is home to 3,000 Yami, the most isolated of Taiwan's indigenous peoples. After storing 98,000 barrels of nuclear waste on the island, Taipower faced widespread protests in 1995 when it broke its promise to the Yami to cancel any expansion of the facility and approved plans to store an additional 100,000 drums of nuclear waste in Long-Men. The Yami fear contamination of soil and sea from leaking barrels; the Taiwan Atomic Energy Council has admitted that some of the drums of waste have rusted. Now all the wastes, including those previously stored at Lan Yu, are to go to North Korea.

"We now see a new form of 'environmental imperialism' in which richer countries try to pass on their dangerous radioactive waste legacy to others who desperately need foreign exchange to help their economic situation," said Green Korea in an international alert following their expulsion from Taiwan. "A victory over this export attempt will set an important international precedent against storing 'waste for cash' in other nations' back yards, and strengthen the movement towards nuclear phase-out."

North Korean sources reported that the waste would be stored in a closed mine in Pyungsan, Whanghaebukdo, North Korea. According to the Korean Federation for Environmental Movement (KFEM): "The underground water table can be infiltrated due to the carelessly developed tunnel and mining area. Furthermore, there is danger of an earthquake as the mine is located near geographical faults. In addition, it will take at least five or ten years to build the treatment facilities for the nuclear waste. If 60,000 barrels of waste are dumped within two years, it will only be discarded as waste in a closed mine with its (limited) facilities."

The larger picture
The waste export deal has a number of important international implications. By seeking this tie with North Korea, Taiwan may well be looking towards future investment there, as the North's state-controlled economy slowly opens after the collapse of the Cold War-era socialist trading bloc. Certainly, Taiwan's newly strengthened relationship with North Korea will anger both China and South Korea. Since the Korean War, China has been a close ally of the North, so "Pyongyang's (NK) recognition of Taiwan means a slap in the face for Beijing" ("The Korea Times"). Taiwan has also had less than friendly ties with South Korea since that government switched its diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to China in 1992. Thus South Korean government appeals have fallen on deaf ears in Taiwan. And a Pyongyang representative in Taipei, said that Seoul should "tend to its own business before interfering with that of others." (Korea Times, Jan. 20/97)

This is not the first time that the divided Koreas have squared off on rad-waste plans. For the nuclear plant-laden South has yet to find a site for its own radioactive wastes. The most recent choice was a small island in the Yellow Sea off Korea's west coast, close to the border with the North. At that time (end 1994-95) the North opposed the site as a danger to their own health and safety. The plan was finally dropped in the face of citizen protest and geological studies showing deep fissures in the island's supposedly stable rock.

Meanwhile, plans for a twin 1000 Mw reactor light-water nuclear facility to be built by the south in the north proceed, the result of a US-engineered "trade-off" in which North Korea shut its small weapons-related nuclear reactor. There has been some discussion in the Korean press that the big reactor deal may be threatened if the North does not reject Taiwan's wastes. But as early spring came to the peninsula in late February, plans and initial site work for the project were proceeding.

Not only is the Taiwan-NK deal the first rad-waste export contract, but such trans-boundary exchanges are currently allowed. The Basel Convention and the London Dumping Treaty set a base-line international consensus against the export of hazardous wastes. The Lomé and Bamako Conventions prohibit the export of radioactive waste to developing countries. However Article 26 of the nuclear waste management treaty currently being drafted by the IAEA is seriously flawed, because it allows the uncontrolled export of radioactive materials. If this article is approved as it currently stands, there could be a movement of radioactive waste internationally. Poor countries might find it acceptable to accept the cancer-causing legacy of others. The IAEA treaty as currently drafted will legalize "environmental imperialism."

Not one of the thirty-eight countries with nuclear power plants has yet solved the nuclear waste dilemma. Both Taiwan and South Korea have had serious technical and social problems with their waste policy. Despite the heavy burden it places on our society, the South Korean government plans to operate a total of 29 nuclear reactors around the year 2010. In East Asia, the Philippines, Indonesia and China also plan to depend on nuclear-generated electricity. Says Green Korea: "We must recognize that the only way to prevent the specter of nuclear wastes contaminating the environment and people over thousands of years, is not to create them in the first place."

International support is needed and welcomed.

Source & Contact: Green Korea, 385-108 Hapjong-dong, Mapu-ku, Seoul, Korea
Fax: +82-2-325-5677
E-mail: environ@chollian.dacom.co.kr

Taiwan Environmental Protection Union (TEPU), No. 29, Lane 128, Sec 3 Roosveldt Rd., Taipei, Taiwan
tel: +886-2-363-6419
Fax: +886-2-362-3458
E-mail: tepu@ms1.hinet.net


Russians set to start building six new generation reactors

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(March 14, 1997) Work is to start in Russia in the next two months on building the first in a series of new power-generation reactors, under a program involving a total of six new units at three different sites.

(468.4656) Ecodefense -Details of the projects have been outlined by a senior official in the Ministry of Atomic Power (Minatom), responsible for design, investment and construction. The program comprises building projects at three sites - Sosnovy Bor, near St. Petersburg, Kola and Novovoronezh. Minatom says that for financial reasons, it is reducing the scope of its construction plans, and is concentrating on two principal designs. These are a 640-megawatt (MW) unit, called the V-407, and a similar but larger 1000-MW unit, known as the V-392. Both are advanced pressurized water reactors.

The ministry's strategy is to launch new nuclear plant construction projects to make up for the loss of nuclear units which are coming to the end of their operating lives on the Kola Peninsula and in the northwestern and central regions. Another aim is to create new energy sources for the Far East. This will involve building the smaller 640-MW plant in areas with isolated power systems or regions with poor links with the main Russian grid. The larger new units are to be used in the general grid system. The ministry says both designs meet modern safety requirements and are competitive in comparison with plants which burn fossil fuels.

Last July, Russia's nuclear regulators gave permission for the construction of a 640-MW unit at Sosnovy Bor, close to the existing Leningrad nuclear station, which consists of four 1000-MW Chernobyl-type RBMKs. Permission for construction was also given for three 640-MW blocks at what is known as the Kola-2 station. There are already four units of the VVER-440 type at Kola. The larger capacity (1000-MW) new design is to be used for the construction of two new units at the Novovoronezh station, where three blocks are already in operation. Minatom has applied for permission to start construction of the two new units at Novovoronezh. The ministry says the perimeter fence for the first V-407 is being erected at Sosnovy Bor, and that preparatory work is underway on the site drainage system, with a view to starting actual construction work in the first quarter of this year. According to the ministry, preparatory work is also going on at the Kola and Novovoronezh sites. This includes roadworks and the installation of electricity lines.

Russia has three nuclear units due for completion within the next three years. Two of them, Kalinin-3 and Kursk-5, are due to be commissioned towards the end of this year or in early 1998. Unit 1 of the Rostov station is due to be completed in 1998 or the following year. The federation's nuclear development program also includes fast reactors at the Beloyarsk and South Urals nuclear sites. In addition, the Russians are developing a floating nuclear power plant, called the KLT-40, for use in isolated coastal territories.

Source: Andrei Gagarinski, Kurchatov Institute, Russia, 22 February 1997
Contact: Ecodefense, Moskovsky prospekt 120-34, 236006 Kaliningrad, Russia
Tel/Fax: +7-0112-437286
Email: ecodefense@glasnet.ru

Serious safety deficiencies at Ontario's plants

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(March 14, 1997) After a one-year lawsuit, an Ontario court has ordered Canada's biggest electric power company, Ontario Hydro, to make public "peer review" documents on 19 nuclear reactors by the end of February. This was the first time that Ontario Hydro's own reviews of its nuclear plants was to be made public.

(468.4658) WISE-Amsterdam -The documents show serious safety deficiencies. Among these are operators found sleeping or playing computer games. Three of the four computers in the main contol room of the Pickering B plant near Toronto had computer games or other unauthorized programs installed. At this plant in July 1994, explosive Deuterium collected in one place in concentrations about three times the limit meant to avoid explosions.

"In some cases, plant safety has been jeopardized by the improper operation of important plant equipment, including some important to nuclear safety," the report concludes about the plant.

About the Bruce A station, the report says "alarms are routinely silenced but not acknowledged". During the visit of the survey team, some annunciator lamps had been flashing for more than two hours before being noticed. When, in April 1995, an auxiliary pump failed during a shutdown, no action was taken for more then 24 hours.

In the Bruce B plant, operators were seen playing computer games on two occasions, and the investigators found a ping-pong table with net set up between switchgear relay panels in the relay building.

Carl Andognini, Ontario Hydro's top nuclear official, said the reports were two to three years old, and measures had been taken to solve the problems. "We have nothing to hide," he said. "Safety is our No. 1 concern."
Ours, too.

Source: CSM, 27 February 1997
Contact: Nuclear Awareness Project, Box 104, Uxbridge, Ontario, Canada, L9P 1M6
Tel/Fax: +1- 905-852-0571
E-mail: nucaware@web.net