#551 - June 29, 2001

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Full issue

Alternate feed material: Putting radwaste through uranium mills

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(June 29, 2001) Uranium-mining companies continue the practice of putting "alternate feed material" through uranium mills. This can include material that would otherwise have to be disposed of as low-level radioactive waste, but contains a small amount of uranium. Activists continue to oppose this practice.

(551.5295) WISE Amsterdam / WISE Uranium - The most well-known site at which "alternate feed material" is used is probably the International Uranium Corporation (IUC) White Mesa Mill in the US state of Utah (see WISE News Communique 540.5229, "Uranium mining in 2000"). This mill has accepted material from a variety of sources, extracting the uranium and dumping what is left over in its tailing ponds.

Some of the material travels considerable distances. In 1997, for example, the mill started using residues from the processing of tantalum ore by Cabot Corporation in Pennsylvania. These residues contain thorium, which is also radioactive, as well as uranium. On 27 October 1997, liquid leakage was discovered in containers containing Cabot residue in Toronto, Canada, which had been shipped by railroad from Pennsylvania.

However, White Mesa's activities go beyond recovering uranium from what would otherwise be waste from extraction of other minerals. In 1999, the mill processed material from the US Department of Energy's Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program (FUSRAP). This consisted of tailings and contaminated soil from uranium extraction for the US nuclear weapons program.

IUC received US$4,050,000 to process FUSRAP material from Tonawanda in New York State, which contained uranium worth no more than US$600,000. This led to accusations that IUC was really being paid to dispose of the residue in the mill's tailings pond, avoiding the need for it to be sent to a low-level radioactive waste disposal site, so that the mill was in effect becoming a glorified nuclear waste dump.

Many hazards arise from the mill's activity. In 1999 there was an incident in which 47 times the allowed level of chloroform was found in a monitoring well. The chloroform was thought to come for a former laboratory on the site. Nevertheless, campaigners say that White Mesa drinking water has not been monitored on a regular schedule.

The mill sits on Native American lands, and several sacred sites have already been disturbed by the mill's operation. The Ute people have often taken part in demonstrations against the mill.

Trucking the alternate feed material to the mill also presents hazards. On 29 September 1999 a truck carrying 20 tons of material from Tonawanda tipped over near Cisco, Utah, spilling about half of its contents.

Citizens and environmental groups in southern Utah held a "Walk Against Nuclear Waste" in the last week of May 2001. More than 40 individuals walked the 80 miles from Blanding (the town next to the White Mesa mill) to Moab. Cosponsoring groups included Moab-based Living Rivers, Glen Canyon Action Network, and the Sierra Club Glen Canyon Group, as well as HEAL-UTAH from Salt Lake City.

The activists fear the White Mesa site will end up in a similar mess to the bankrupt Atlas Corp.'s Moab tailings site (see WISE News Communique 514.5049,"The cost of safe drinking water: Moab as a case") where contaminated water from tailings continues to leak into the Colorado River. As this News Communique goes to press, a bill is making its way through Congress that includes some money for planning the cleanup process and stabilizing the Moab site.

The activists demand the closure of the White Mesa mill and the cleanup of the mill site. They also oppose IUC's recent application to process radioactive lead waste from the Molycorp site in California.

Uranium mill tailings are an important though often neglected source of radiation. Over a period of 10,000 years, uranium mill tailings can contribute more to the collective radiation dose received by the population as a result of nuclear power than the reactor itself or the spent fuel (see the Nuclear Fuel Population Health Risk Calculator on the WISE Uranium web site). The use of alternate feed material containing other radioactive materials can only make this worse.


Contact:WISE Uranium (uranium@t-online.de)

Belarus: bandashevsky sentenced to 8 years in Gulag

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(June 29, 2001) Professor Yuri Bandashevsky was sentenced to 8 years' hard labor by a military tribunal in Belarus on 18 June. Although bribery was the official charge, the real reason behind his sentence is related to his 9 years of research into the effects of the Chernobyl disaster. The sentence was followed two days later by an almost-fatal attack on the acting director of the Institute "Belrad", which carries out related work

(551.5289) WISE Amsterdam - The news of Bandashevsky's sentence has come as a shock to other people involved in the campaign to help Chernobyl victims. Charges against him were made in 1999, when he was imprisoned from 13 July to 27 December (see WISE News Communique nos. 522.5120, "Belarus: Chernobyl medical expert in jail" and 523.5129, "Chernobyl medical expert out of jail, but charges not dropped"). After a campaign to free him, he was then released on probation and had to stay in Minsk until his trial.

He was charged with accepting bribes from parents for their children to be admitted as students to the medical institute. However, the witnesses subsequently retracted their statements against him, and the prosecutor in the case, Bozhelko, told a press conference on 17 February 2001 that the case was empty. Bozhelko was then taken off the case, and has since disappeared. His whereabouts are still unknown, and it is not known if he is still alive.

The case was then transferred to the Supreme Court, who transferred it to the Military Tribunal in Gomel because Bandashevsky's co-defendant, Vladimir Ravkov, was previously a lieutenant colonel in the army. It was this tribunal that sentenced both Bandashevsky and Ravkov on 18 June.

Harry Pahaniaila, vice-chairman of the Helsinki Committee of Belarus, said, "According to our legislation, one can't submit a cassation complaint against this verdict. But I have no doubt that Bandashevsky and his defense will complain against the verdict. In this case there were many violations. For instance, Bandashevsky's right to defense was violated."

Belarus, which itself has no nuclear power plants, received a large proportion of the Chernobyl fallout, and dealing with the after-effects of the disaster consumes a quarter of the national budget (See WISE News Communique 547.5262, "Chernobyl 15 years on: health information still suppressed"). After the Chernobyl disaster Bandashevsky moved from Grodno, where he had been director of the central research laboratory, to Gomel, where he established the Gomel Medical Institute to help people in the contaminated region.

As rector of this institute, Bandashevsky carried out research into the effects of radioisotopes on vital organs of the human body following the Chernobyl disaster. Rats fed with cesium-137 were found to have pathological modifications to the kidneys, liver, heart and lungs. Bandashevsky and his colleagues then carried out 285 autopsies in the Gomel morgue, and found similar pathological modifications to those observed in the rats.



Since the military tribunal's decision cannot be reversed by appeal, the best hope for Bandashevsky is to press the President of Belarus to grant a pardon. To this end, please send a letter to the President, requesting that he pardon Bandashevsky. A model text appears below. The President's e-mail address is presid@president.gov.by. By post or fax, it is probably best to send to the Embassy of Belarus in your country: see the website www.ac.by/country/embass.html for details.

Please also send a copy to the coordinator of the action, Solange Fernex at s.m.fernex@wanadoo.fr

Please send your protest before 3 July (see letter)!!

Mr. Alexander Lukachenko
President of the Republic of Belarus

Re: Request for Presidential Pardon for Professor Yuri I. Bandashevsky


Dear Mr. President,

On the 3rd of July, your country is celebrating the tenth anniversary of its independence.

On this occasion, and to mark this important commemoration, we request that you use your powers to grant a Presidential pardon to Professor Yuri I. Bandashevsky, who was sentenced on 18th June to 8 years at a labor camp, even though he has always denied the charges made against him, and the witnesses have all retracted their statements against him.

A Presidential pardon for Professor Bandashevsky would be welcomed unanimously by people all over the world who desire to help the victims of the Chernobyl disaster, including those in your country, and reduce their suffering. Professor Bandashevsky's research and other work was always motivated by this fundamental priority.

We look forward to your response,

Yours faithfully

(Name, Organization)

He thus discovered a direct relationship between a number of diseases and the concentration ofradioisotopes in the body - something that is clearly embarrassing both for the Belarus government and the international nuclear lobby. Having found this link, he then identified compounds that are effective in eliminating radioisotopes from the body without side effects, which could be given to people living in contaminated areas. The Belarus Ministry of Public Health, however, ignored his findings.

Before his arrest in 1999, Bandashevsky criticized the Minsk Clinical Research Institute of Radiation Medicine for mismanagement of funds allocated for research into overcoming the consequences of Chernobyl. This clearly made him unpopular with the authorities.

Bandashevsky is very sick, with heart and gastric problems, making it all the more vital to press for him to be pardoned. A draft letter to send to the President, either directly or via the local embassy of Belarus, is included with this article. Amnesty International are also expected to make an appeal.

A "Passport for Freedom" from the European Parliament will be presented on 3 or 4 July at Strasbourg to Bandazhevsky's wife, pediatrician Dr. Galina Bandazhevskaya. This has been signed by many European politicians including two former Presidents of the European Commission (Jacques Santer and Gil Roblès) and former European Commissioner Emma Bonino.

Devoino attack
Two days after Bandashevsky was sentenced, Dr Alexander Devoino, deputy director of the independent radiation research institute Belrad, was attacked in front of the door of his home. He had been attacked with brass knuckles, and was left lying in a pool of his own blood. Doctors said it was the work of a "professional". It is thought that the attack was intended as a severe warning for Professor Nesterenko, director of Belrad (see box "Belarus Repression Continues" in WISE News Communique 547.5262, "Chernobyl 15 years on: health information still suppressed").

Belrad has performed 300,000 measurements of caesium-137 in foodstuffs and carried out measurements of radioactivity on 120,000 children. The data found were 8-10 times higher than the calculations performed by the Belarus Ministry of Health on the basis of individual samples collected in a few villages.

Concern over human rights abuses in Belarus continues in the run-up to the presidential elections set for 9 September this year. A US State Department report on human rights practices in 2000 stated, "The Government's human rights record was very poor and worsened significantly in many areas". Current developments appear to indicate that this trend is continuing.


  • emails from Solange Fernex, 18 and 22 June 2001
  • Web site www.chernobyl.da.ru
  • "Qui est le professeur Bandazhevsky?", text by Wladimir Tchertkoff, December 2000
  • Web site www.spring96.org, 19 June 2001

Contact: Solange Fernex, President, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (French section), 114, rue du Vaugirard, 75005 Paris, France
Tel: +33-389-407183; Fax: +33-389-407804
E-mail: solange.fernex@wanadoo.fr


Export credit agencies prop up nuclear industry

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(June 29, 2001) The United States and other industrialized nations are propping up the sagging nuclear power industry through use of their Export Credit Agencies (ECAs), such as the US Export-Import Bank (ExIm), despite what amounts to a rejection of the technology in these same nations, according to a new report released in the U.S. on 25 June 2001 by the Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS).

(551.5294) NIRS - The report, written by environmental groups and researchers across the world, highlights the growing problem of ECA and International Financial Institutions (IFI) support for nuclear power. At the Genoa G8 Summit in July, world leaders will discuss environmental reform of ECAs. The authoring groups are highlighting the problems that financing nuclear power projects can bring.

The report carefully documents how approximately US$10 billion in credit guarantees have been awarded by the ECAs of the G8 to support current nuclear projects globally. The main recipient of this assistance is China, with seven of the eight countries supporting nuclear development there. In addition, the completion of partly build reactors in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union is a target for nuclear constructors and the subsequent financial support from governments.

The use of ECAs is used not only to support domestic industries but also political objectives. In Ukraine, ECAs are proposing to support the completion of two reactors in Ukraine (Khmelnitsky 2 and Rovno 4, or K2/R4), despite the country's poor nuclear safety record and economic performance. This performance has led to other projects in Ukraine that were seeking ECA assistance being abandoned. These funds were made on the basis of a political agreement in 1995 and not on current day reality or need.

The European Commission is also becoming increasingly active in its financial support for nuclear power, with two loans approved in 2000, the first for over a decade and the first outside Member States of the EU. As a result of these loans the European Commission is preparing a proposal to expand its lending capabilities inside and outside the Union.

Globally nuclear power is on the decline; it has been rejected by the public and the majority of electric utilities. The abandonment of nuclear power is due to increased transparency of costs and more information about the environmental and social costs of nuclear technology. Because of this the nuclear constructors are desperately seeking new markets to save their manufacturing capabilities. The companies are using ECAs to support their export bids, which are mostly clouded in secrecy, without clear public or parliamentary scrutiny. If similar scrutiny were to be made on reactor exports as for domestic construction in most G8 countries, this trade would stop.

In Genoa, the G8 will review the environmental record of ECAs and propose new environmental guidelines. These new guidelines must expose the full environmental and social impacts of all projects.

"Nuclear power has been largely rejected across the World. Countries in the G8 are now exporting more reactors than they are constructing in their own countries," said Antony Froggatt, co-author of the report. "ECAs are an essential part of the export of redundant nuclear technology. The ECAs lack of transparency aids this process; it is time for ECAs to be subjected to the same democratic scrutiny as other financial institutions and domestic constructions."

"The U.S. Export-Import Bank is in the process of revising its nuclear funding guidelines," said Michael Mariotte, executive director of NIRS. "As a first step, ExIm should forbid funding of unsafe Russian-designed reactors like K2/R4. As the next step, ExIm should stop funding nuclear projects entirely, and use its limited resources to support environmentally sound energy sources." Mariotte noted that ExIm so far is refusing to fund K2/R4 because of Ukraine's poor financial position, and said that NIRS encourages the bank to continue to reject funding for this project on both environmental and economic grounds.

[The report, Financing Disaster, How the G8 is Supporting the Global Proliferation of Nuclear Technology was prepared by NGOs and Environmental Specialists in the G8 Countries, including: Sierra Club of Canada; Amis de la Terra (France); Urgewald (Germany); An Eye on Sace (Italy); Citizen's Nuclear Information Centre (Japan); ECODEFENSE (Russia); EU Enlargement Watch (UK); NIRS (US).
The full report is available on the Web at www.nirs.org. Paper copies of the executive summary are available free to media and environmental organizations from NIRS. Paper copies of the full 150-page report are US$15.00.]

Source and contact: Nuclear Information and Resource Service, 1424 16th Street NW, Washington, DC 20036, US
Tel: +1 202 328 0002;Fax +1 202 462 2183
Email nirsnet@nirs.org
Web www.nirs.org

Or: Antony Froggatt, +44 20 7923 0412

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

France: Civaux-1 containment leaks.

(June 29, 2001) A containment integrity test in the beginning of June showed that the concrete inner containment of the Civaux-1 reactor building has a leak rate that is higher than expected. A leak rate of 2.7% of containment gas volume per day was found, whereas EDF has an internal criterion of 1% per day. When the reactor started up in 1997 the leak rate was only 0.35% per day and has thus multiplied by a factor of seven. Besides, it was also discovered that leaks were detected over much more of the containment surface than had ever been found in other large NPPs in France. The maximum leak rate specified in the generic safety report for this reactor is 1.5% per day. But according to EDF this limit is only relevant in case of an accident and under those circumstances it would concern a mixture of air and steam. Such a mixture would have a leak rate three times less than air alone. Containments of other reactors in France have been repaired with liquid concrete or resin. Civaux-1 was taken offline in March for inspection outage and will not restart before November or December. Nucleonics Week, 14 June 2001; AFP, 22 June 2001


UK energy review.

(June 29, 2001) UK Prime Minister Tony Blair announced a review of the country's energy supply on 25 June. Chairing the review is Energy Minister Brian Wilson, who is known for his pro-nuclear views. Sources said that his views would not affect the outcome of the review, but there has been considerable press speculation that the review will recommend that more nuclear power plants be built. However, even Robin Jeffrey, chairman of British Energy, admitted in May that the industry was still a "long way from making the business case for new nuclear construction" so statements of a "nuclear renaissance" are still somewhat premature. Financial Times, 18 June 2001; Reuters, 26 June 2001


Sellafield sand found to be radioactive waste.

(June 29, 2001) Sand which was collected by Greenpeace near Sellafield has turned out to be radioactive waste according to European regulations. The 120 kilograms of sand was taken from a riverbed and a road at more than 10 kilometers distance from the plant. Greenpeace presented the sand late last year to the Dutch Dodewaard reactor in protest against the reprocessing of its fuel in Sellafield. Dutch government authorities tested the sand and found high concentrations of plutonium and americium, which were above the European limits for radioactive waste. Greenpeace press release, 26 June 2001; Metro, 27 June 2001


Setback for Sellafield MOX Plant...

(June 29, 2001) Following a High Court challenge from Friends of the Earth (see box "SMP judicial review" in WISE News Communique 549.5276, "Sellafield: THORP customers threaten to withdraw business, discharge levels 20 times German standards") the UK government has agreed to an extra round of public consultation for the Sellafield MOX Plant. Friends of the Earth had complained that a study by consultants Arthur D Little on the plant's viability had been kept secret. The UK government has now agreed to publish the study, but with information deleted where this would "cause unreasonable damage to BNFL's commercial operations or to the economic case for the MOX plant itself". Friends of the Earth welcomed the extra round of public consultations but said it was "startling" that the government was planning to refuse publication of information that might expose the lack of a sound economic case for the plant. Reuters, 22 June 2001; Financial Times, 22 June 2001


... and for Kalpakkam.

(June 29, 2001) In India too, an environmental group has successfully argued that public consultation plans were inadequate. The Coastal Action Network (CAN) filed a public interest litigation, arguing that insufficient notice was given to the public and environmentalists of a public hearing on the proposed Kalpakkam NPP. This hearing - India's first attempt to hold a public hearing on the environmental aspects of a nuclear power station - was scheduled for 21 April then cancelled without publicity. Following rumors that it had been re-scheduled for 15 June, the CAN complained that the procedure was not being followed. After considering the CAN's plea, Mr. Justice P. Shanmugam, passed interim orders that the public hearing, if held, would be without prejudice to the CAN's right to seek a fresh public hearing. The Hindu, 18 June 2001


Finland: Olkiluoto safety problems.

(June 29, 2001) An INES Level 1 incident was reported in the two Finnish Olkiluoto BWRs when it turned out that the Bakelite gears of eight motorized devices might possibly not work properly in case of an accident. The gears are part of devices that open valves in the emergency cooling safety system. The problem was discovered in January when teeth from one gear had broken off, so that the gear stuck and the valve could not be opened. The other seven devices were not damaged. The Finnish Radiation & Nuclear Safety Authority (STUK) ordered the replacement of the gears. Nucleonics Week, 14 June 2001

Leukemia around La Hague; link to the reprocessing plant?

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(June 29, 2001) A new study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health observes an increased incidence of leukemia in a certain population of 5-9 year old children living within 10 kilometers of the French reprocessing plant La Hague.

(551.5291) Les Mères en Colère (The Angry Mothers)/WISE Amsterdam - Some years ago, on 11 January 1997, a study was published in the British Medical Journal on children's leukemia around the reprocessing plant La Hague. The research by Professor Viel covered the area within a distance of 35 kilometers from the plant and found an excess of children's leukemia in the district of Beaumont, within 10 kilometers of the reprocessing plant. He found 4 cases of leukemia where 1.4 would be expected. Without drawing a definite link to the presence of the plant, its emissions or other nearby installations (the radioactive waste disposal site of French waste management organization ANDRA), Professor Viel suggested that the local food consumption habits, the frequency of visiting the beach and exposure to liquid and gaseous emissions from the plant could explain the leukemia cases.

The same day, mothers of families in the region of Cherbourg organized themselves in the Collective of Angry Mothers (Les Mères en Colère) to demand further information and press Cogema and the other operators for more transparency and objectivity (see also WISE News Communique 509/10.5005: "The mothers are angry at La Hague").

Some months later, two missions were set up on request of the Ministry of Health and the Environment. The first was guided by the Institute for Nuclear Protection and Safety (IPSN) and consisted of a reconstruction of the radiation doses of the local population. The second was headed by Professor Alfred Spira of the National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM) and had the specific mission to follow the incidence of leukemias in the region of North Cotentin, the peninsula where La Hague is located in the departement of La Manche.

The findings of Professor Spira, backed by the cancer register of La Manche département, have now been published in the July 2001 issue of the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. They confirm the excess of leukemia cases in Beaumont. For the group of children aged 5-9 years, three cases of leukemia (all of which were acute lymphoblastic leukemia) were found between 1978 and 1998 where 0.47 would have been expected according to statistics. This is 6.38 times more than expected, which is statistically significant and cannot be explained by normal fluctuations in France.

The observed number of 38 cases between 1978 and 1998 in the region as a whole was consistent with the expected value. The incidence in all age groups within 10 kilometers of La Hague was 2.17 times the expected amount (5 cases where 2.3 expected) but this excess was not sufficient to be considered statistically significant.

As the epidemiologists were aware of other studies on reprocessing plants and leukemia (with observed leukemia increases in Dounreay (UK) of 3.3 times and Sellafield 10.2 times expected incidence) they discuss in their publication the possible link between La Hague and the increase in Beaumont. The possibility of paternal exposure to radioacivity prior to conception (workers) was dismissed because of a lack of reliable data. The scientists concluded that it would be unlikely that radioactive discharges could have caused the increase but recognize that reserves have been expressed about the lack of an uncertainty analysis.

Having discounted these possibilities, the researchers then considered the population mixing theory previously put forward as an explanation for the Sellafield cluster (see WISE News Communique 516.5068, "Sellafield: Population mixing cancer theory again pushed forward"). According to this theory, movements from areas to others could be linked to an increase in leukemia. A study is underway to analyze population movement and childhood leukemia around La Hague. However, the scientists comment "it currently seems difficult to dissociate the correlation between the incidence of leukemia and proximity to the plant from that between leukemia and population movements".

In their last paragraph they conclude: "In view of statistically significant clusters of childhood leukemia near other European nuclear reprocessing sites, and the concerns of the local population, these findings argue in favour of continued investigations in Nord Cotentin."

Rather than the population mixing theory, Les Mères en Colère put forward the mixing of radioactive and chemical pollution, liquid and gaseous, chronic and accidental, known and unknown, coming from La Hague since 1981, and the discharges from the neighboring ANDRA site. The role of gaseous effluent, its volume and its distribution as a result of the specific meteorological conditions on the La Hague peninsula are among the main points requiring clarification, particularly as regards iodine-129.

Les Mères en Colère demand:

  • regular checking of the blood counts of the 830 children of Beaumont-Hague;
  • studies on the exposure of the workers;
  • research on pollutants that could have an effect on the DNA of fetuses;
  • a halt to storage and reprocessing of spent fuel from foreign countries.

[This article is a translated, edited version of a press release from Les Mères en Colère, augmented with information from the paper in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. The paper can be found on the Web at jech.bmjjournals.com/cgi/content/full/55/7/469]


  • Les Mères en Colère press release, 25 June 2001
  • The incidence of childhood leukaemia around the La Hague nuclear waste reprocessing plant (France): a survey for the years 1978-1998, Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, July 2001

Contact: Les Mères en Colère, 19 la Bordette, 50840 Fermanville, France Tel: +33 2 3344 5251
or Robin des Bois, 15 rue Ferdinand-Duval, 75004 Paris, France Tel: +33 6 1246 9624 or +33 1 4804 3482


Netherlands: Court case on closure date Borssele NPP

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(June 29, 2001) On 22 June, a court case took place concerning the closure date of the Borssele NPP. In 1994, the government decided that the reactor had to be closed as of 31 December 2003. But the government decision was annulled by the Council of State in 2000, which opened the way for a later closure date. The government is now seeking to re-establish the closure date of 2003 through a decision by the Court of Administrative Law.

(551.5290) WISE Amsterdam - On the day of the court case, WISE together with Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth Netherlands and Stop Borssele! organized a demonstration in the center of 's-Hertogenbosch. Around 200 people attended the demonstration. As well as Dutch activists, there were people from France, where Borssele's spent fuel is reprocessed, and from Germany and the UK.

Frieda Kas from Stop Borssele! pleaded for a rapid closure of the NPP, sooner rather than later. Dutch MP Marijke Vos from the Green Left party was the initiator of the motion adopted in Parliament in 1994 to close Borssele at the end of 2003 and urged Borssele NPP to accept this democratic decision. She promised to use all parliamentary means to hold it to the 1994 decision.

After the demonstration the people walked in a colorful procession to the court, where some 40 workers from the NPP had organized a picket-line. They claimed that Borssele stands for "energy and clean air" without CO2 emissions, without mentioning the fact the NPP's owner EPZ (Electricity Producers South-Netherlands) also operates a number of big coal-fired electricity plants.

A 50-meter-long banner used in the anti-nuclear demonstration was compiled of several small banners from all over the world saying that Borssele should close immediately. WISE received banners from groups in France, Finland, Czech Republic, Nepal, Australia and some other countries.

History of the 1994 decision
After the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, the Borssele NPP was visited by a mission of the IAEA to study the safety of the reactor. In their 1987 report a number of shortcomings in safety were observed. Borssele NPP owner EPZ got permission in 1991 from the SEP (Dutch Association of Electricity Producers, the highest electricity board) to start a safety upgrade program, which was projected to cost NLG 467 million (US$310 million at the 1994 rate). In order to recover the costs of the modification, the EPZ wanted to operate Borssele at least until 2007.

In 1993, the Dutch parliament approved the Electricity Plan 1995-2004 but wanted a separate decision on the closure date of Borssele. After two sessions of voting, the motion initiated by Marijke Vos was adopted on 23 November 1994 with 77 MPs in favour and 73 against. This meant that Borssele had to close at 31 December 2003 but also had the effect that the safety upgrade investment would be uneconomical. There was a slight hope that because of this the modification program would be cancelled and therefore the reactor would close sooner. Unfortunately, the minister of Economic Affairs Hans Wijers decided a few weeks later to compensate EPZ for the earlier closure date with NLG 70 million (US$46 million at the 1994 rate) to be paid at the time the reactor closes. This was agreed after negotiations with the SEP in December 1994.

Procedures for a new Nuclear Energy Law license were started to fix the closure date of 31 December 2003. The new license with this closure date was issued in 1997 but Borssele workers and EPZ took legal action to stop the license coming into effect. In February 2000, the Council of State (the highest Dutch court) cancelled the license stipulating closure as of end 2003 on procedural grounds. The Council of State said that EPZ and the workers had not been given a fair possibility for participation in the procedure (see WISE News Communique 525: "In Brief"). So the old license with no definite closure date came back into effect. This meant that Borssele could stay open until 2007 or even 2013, since these dates were mentioned in the past based on a planned lifetime of up to 40 years.

Court case 22 June
In order to close Borssele at the end of 2003, the government started a case at the Court of Administrative Law in 's-Hertogenbosch where EPZ has its registered address. In contacts with EPZ it had become clear during the last year that EPZ no longer wanted to close Borssele in 2003, regardless of what Wijers had agreed in December 1994 with the SEP including the NLG 70 million compensation money.

EPZ considered the December 1994 agreement to be irrelevant. EPZ's lawyer said that the agreement was signed with the SEP and thus was not binding for EPZ, added to the fact that the electricity market had since been deregulated and SEP no longer even exists. The government's lawyer however stated that SEP had at that time represented EPZ in the negotiations as the country's highest electricity authority and thus that EPZ had accepted the agreement on closure. Besides, EPZ had accepted the fact that they would receive the compensation sum if Borssele would close.

When the judge asked whether any minutes had been taken during the negotiations in 1994, the lawyer of the government said he was not aware of any minutes apart from the agreement paper itself. Which of course is a bit strange for negotiations on the closure of a nuclear power plant including millions of guilders in compensation.

Quite unclear was the situation of the NLG 70 million compensation. The money was allocated out of a special SEP fund for unforeseen fluctuations in electricity production costs. EPZ has not received the money yet (it would get it only after the actual closure), but it seems that EPZ has already experienced certain financial benefits from the allocation. This is because the compensation was allocated as an interest-free loan, whereas interest must be added to the special SEP fund each year. The compensation arrangement has therefore reduced the amount of money EPZ must put aside as interest on the special SEP fund.

Finally, the government's lawyer asked the judge to take a rapid decision. According to European laws, the closure of an installation like a nuclear reactor requires an environmental impact assessment, which takes time to be carried out. If the judge decides that Borssele has to close as of 31 December 2003 there is little time left to make such an assessment, including all the procedural requirements and possibilities for public participation.

If, on the other hand, the judge decides that Borssele can stay open, there is the problem of what to do with the spent fuel. Renewal of the reprocessing contract with La Hague could cause problems since the coalition agreement between the French Green and Socialist Parties stipulated that no new reprocessing contracts would be signed. Storing the spent fuel without reprocessing would also cause problems since the existing storage space at the Central Organization for Radioactive Waste (COVRA) store is not suitable, and new storage space would need to be built.

The court will give its verdict on 21 September.

Thanks for all groups who send us banners for the demonstration!

Source and contact: WISE Amsterdam


Russia: More Soviet-era radioactive accidents admitted

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(June 29, 2001) Representatives of the Zheleznogorsk Combine have now admitted that there have been accidents involving substantial radioactive discharges at the Zhelezhnogorsk plant (formerly Krasnoyarsk-26) which produces plutonium for military use. Earlier they had claimed that they had never happened.

(551.5293) Bellona Foundation - Fragments of nuclear fuel with very high radioactivity level were found on the banks of the Yenisey River in Siberia. Based on these findings, experts from Krasnoyarsk Biophysics Institute proved that Zheleznogorsk Mining and Chemical Combine suffered at least two serious accidents 30 and 20 years ago. Nuclear industry officials have claimed until now that the combine is absolutely safe.

According to the Combine spokesman, Pavel Morozov, the discharges happened during the first years of the combine's operation when radioactive materials were dumped into the Yenisey River. "Yes, the operation of our combine can be traced down to Igarka [a town in the Russian Arctic], but those [traces] are just spots with high level of cesium-137 content," Morozov said. According to scientists, the Yenisey River is polluted with radionuclides for a length of 1,500 km, right down to the Arctic Ocean.

Currently the specialists of the Combine are working on eliminating the pools with liquid radioactive waste, which were generated during production of weapons-grade plutonium. The first of the seven pools has been already emptied, ITAR-TASS reported. According to the chief engineer, Yury Revenko, preparation for the liquid radwaste elimination began 10 years ago when two plutonium production reactors were shut down. Equipment was manufactured specially for cleaning the steel tanks filled with liquid radwaste.

The Russian nuclear waste import bill will be sent straight to Russian President Vladimir Putin for approval. This is because the Federation Council has not considered the bill during the 14 working days following the Duma's approval on 6 June (see WISE News Communique 550.5287, "Russia wants foreign nuclear waste; lack of exporters"). Under the Russian constitution, this means that the Federation Council has approved the bill by default.
AFP, 27 June 2001

Now Combine officials say they will turn their attention to the clean-up of the Yenisey River. 30 years of the Combine's operation led to high radionuclides content in river's sediments. Besides, several emergency discharges of radioactive water used as reactor coolant took place. At present, the Combine is making maps of the radioactive hot spots. The river clean-up, however, can begin only after the state allocates the proper funds, which as Revenko said seems unlikely now.

Zheleznogorsk, also known as "the Iron City", is situated approximately 50km north of Krasnoyarsk on the eastern side of the River Yenisey in Krasnoyarsk county, Siberia. The city has a population of 90,000 and was known by its code name Krasnoyarsk-26 until 1994. The Mining and Chemical Combine with its three plutonium producing reactors and a radiochemical plant are well shielded 250m to 300m underground. The first reactor was shut down on 30 June 1992, and the second followed on 29 September the same year and the third (AD-2) has been in operation since 1964.

In 1985, a facility to store spent nuclear fuel from the VVER-1000 reactors (third generation of Russian light water reactors) was taken into use. This storage facility is right next to the half-completed RT-2 reprocessing plant. At present the facility stores a total of 3,000 tonnes of spent fuel, though it has a capacity of 6,000 tonnes.

Source and contact: Bellona Foundation, P.O.Box 2141 Grunerlokka, 0505 Oslo, Norway
Tel: +47 23 23 46 00 Fax: +47 22 38 38 62
Email: info@bellona.no
Web: www.bellona.no


Sellafield: THORP reprocessing delayed up to 10 years

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(June 29, 2001) A report by Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment, including as yet unpublished BNFL documents on Sellafield's radioactive discharges, reveals that overseas customers with reprocessing contracts for THORP have been misled by BNFL into believing that their spent fuel contracts will be completed by March 2005.

(551.5292) CORE - THORP's Baseload contracts amounting to 7000 tonnes of overseas and domestic spent fuel were originally scheduled for completion in March 2004 - the end of the plant's first 10 years of operation. Already angered by BNFL's inability to operate THORP properly, overseas customers have been told by BNFL in recent negotiations that their contracts will be completed one year late, by March 2005 and that additional costs will be imposed on them for THORP's "11th Baseload" year (see WISE News Communique 549.5276: "Sellafield: THORP customers threaten to withdraw from business, discharge levels 20 times German standards").

Concluding that completion of the contracts by March 2005 is unachievable, CORE's report highlights a number of factors currently ranged against THORP which could see the Baseload drag on for up to 10 further years, imposing significant extra costs on overseas customers who are already considering taking legal action against BNFL for breaching the terms of the contracts.

CORE spokesman Martin Forwood: "Customers have been conned by BNFL over the March 2005 date. BNFL has known for several years that amongst other restrictions, increasing problems with discharges and Sellafield's vitrification programme will set the Baseload way back, possibly up to 2015. The prospect of paying through the nose for THORP's continuing failure, through no fault of their own, could well be the last straw for overseas customers."

CORE's report points out that to complete the Baseload by March 2005, THORP must reprocess annually at least 955 tons without any further stoppages, a rate never before achieved. The more realistic figure of 700 tons, confirmed by BNFL as the likely target for the curent year and delaying Baseload completion to late 2006, is itself under threat by other limiting factors.

A leaked BNFL Discharge Review identifies a number of aerial discharges projected to reach or breach existing discharge limits and subsequently restrict operations in THORP and the Waste Vitrification Plant (WVP). For details see www.britishnuclearfuels.com/documents/leak.pdf and www.britishnuclearfuels.com/documents/leakedmins.pdf

Published reports by the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII) and the requirement imposed by them recently on BNFL to reduce high level waste stocks, reveal a serious under-capacity at Sellafield to vitrify the wastes from BNFL's intended programme of reprocessing over 1000 tons of Magnox fuel and 955 tons of Oxide fuel over the next few years.

The impending reprocessing in THORP of increased amounts of overseas customers' higher burn-up and shorter cooled fuel, purposely scheduled for the back end of THORP's Baseload because of the extra demands they place on the plant, will compound the discharge and vitrification problems.

CORE's spokesman: "Based on BNFL and NII data, our figures show clearly that BNFL has painted itself into a corner and can't meet both Magnox and Oxide reprocessing programmes in the same year. Something has to be sacrificed somewhere and, as NII has pointed out previously, it will be THORP's programme which will suffer - and could be reduced to around just 170 tons each year. If the true extent of the problems now facing THORP had not been concealed from them, overseas customers would know that completing their contracts by March 2005 is just so much pie in the sky"

The report "BNFL & Reprocessing; The Deception of Customers Continue" by CORE can be downloaded from www.britishnuclearfuels.com/documents/thorp.pdf

Source and contact: Cumbrians Opposed to a Radioactive Environment (CORE), 98 Church St, Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria LA14 2HJ, UK
Tel: +44 1229 833851; Fax: +44 1229 812239
Web: www.corecumbria.co.uk

US: "McLicensing" for nuclear power companies?

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(June 29, 2001) The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) is attempting to change its rules in a manner that would drastically reduce public participation rights in nuclear licensing hearings.

(551.5296) NIRS - In commenting on the NRC's proposed "streamlining" of the public hearing process, Corbin McNeill, chief executive for nuclear giant Exelon, told the Wall Street Journal "It's maybe 1% to 10% what it used to be." As McNeill points out, stripping the democratic process from public hearings on nuclear safety has become the new selling point to investors considering building more atomic reactors.

At the urging of the nuclear power industry, the NRC is proposing to go beyond its current "one-step" licensing process and push the public entirely out of any kind of meaningful licensing hearings. For the first time in US regulatory history, all reactor licensing proceedings - including the initial licensing for new reactors, license extension for aging reactors and license amendments to reactor safety procedures - could be conducted under expedited hearings where the public's due process to legally challenge reactor licensing issues is systematically eliminated. By rulemaking, the NRC is trying to reinterpret the statutory mandates of the Atomic Energy Act for what is traditionally recognized as a community's right to formal trial-type hearings. Under the proposed rule the Commission would have "flexibility" to entirely eliminate the public's basic right to a formal hearing.

The rule change proposes to "deformalize" public interventions by replacing trial-type public hearings with "informal" hearings. These informal hearings would be stripped of key due process procedures, such as mandatory discovery of documents for the disclosure of opposing evidence and cross-examination to confront witnesses on statements of fact. The rule would also make it even more difficult than it is now to get a NRC hearing. Once a contention is admitted, hearings would be expedited and participation rights would be drastically curtailed, so as to make the hearing meaningless.

Comments on the proposed changes must be submitted to the NRC by 14 September 2001. For more information on the proposed rule changes and how to oppose them, contact Paul Gunter at NIRS.

Source and contact: Paul Gunter, Nuclear Information and Resource Service, 1424 16th Street NW, Washington, DC 20036, US
Tel: +1 202 328 0002;Fax +1 202 462 2183
Email pgunter@nirs.org
Web www.nirs.org