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Syrian crisis should re-energise broader disarmament efforts

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Cesar Jaramillo - program officer at Project Ploughshares (Ontario, Canada)

Whatever the merits of the deal reached to defuse the tension in Syria, the use of chemical weapons in its civil war confirms a sobering reality: if weapons exist, they will sooner or later be used — no matter how immoral, indiscriminate or contrary to international norms.

Any use of nuclear weapons in a populated area would be far more catastrophic than the highest estimate of casualties from the use of chemical weapons outside Damascus on Aug. 21. However, while various nations seem to be scrambling to respond to the events in Syria within days, the international community has not been able to follow a road map for nuclear disarmament to its final destination after more than four decades.

Chemical, biological and nuclear weapons have this in common: their use is immoral and illegal — even in times of conflict. Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird sardonically called chemical weapons "a poor man's weapons of mass destruction." Even if true, the weapons of mass destruction of affluent countries are no more legitimate.

The nuclear non-proliferation treaty was designed to prevent non-nuclear-weapon states from acquiring nuclear weapons and to compel nuclear-weapon states to eliminate them. More than 40 years later, the former have by and large fulfilled their non-proliferation commitments. Yet those that hold nuclear weapons have resisted, avoided or ignored not only their treaty obligations, but the groundswell of support for nuclear abolition from all corners of the planet. Instead, there is a discouraging and well-documented trend to spend billions of dollars on modernising nuclear weapons, pushing the goalpost of nuclear abolition ever further away.

Only five states party to the nearly universal non-proliferation treaty possess nuclear weapons, but their combined arsenals of more than 17,000 warheads could destroy our planet many times over.

Certainly, Syria should sign on to the chemical weapons convention, which mandates the destruction of chemical arsenals. The possession of weapons of mass destruction of any kind is the obvious fundamental prerequisite for their use.

It is just as clear that nuclear-weapon states should begin negotiations on a nuclear weapons convention. Until all nuclear weapons are eliminated, the threat remains that they will be used — by accident, miscalculation or design.

In his Sept. 10 televised speech to rally domestic support for eventual military intervention in Syria, U.S. President Barack Obama called the images of victims of chemical weapons "sickening" and stated that these weapons "can kill on a mass scale, with no distinction between soldier and infant." He was right. But the same is true for nuclear weapons.

He also stated that the United States belongs to the 98 per cent of nations that have signed the chemical weapons convention. This is roughly the same percentage of states that have refrained from acquiring nuclear weapons. On the nuclear issue, however, the United States sits with the minority.

To be sure, Obama has spoken passionately in favour of nuclear abolition. In June, he acknowledged the grave danger posed by nuclear weapons and stated that "so long as nuclear weapons exist, we are not truly safe." In Prague in 2009, he said the United States would take "concrete steps toward a world without nuclear weapons."

But setting lofty goals has never been the problem. Nuclear abolition has been an international objective for decades, supported in theory even by states with nuclear weapons. It is implementing this goal that has proved difficult. No reasonable observer would conclude that nuclear-weapon states have taken meaningful steps to "pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament" as obligated by the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

Opportunities for engagement on this issue continue to develop. Just this year, a UN open-ended working group met in June and August with a mandate to "develop proposals to take forward multilateral nuclear disarmament negotiations for the achievement and maintenance of a world without nuclear weapons." The five permanent members of the UN Security Council — also the sole possessors of nuclear weapons within the non-proliferation treaty — were asked to join the group. Every single one chose not to.

Another opportunity comes on Sept. 26, when the UN holds a high-level meeting on nuclear disarmament. In October, states will have the chance to solidify any progress initiated at that meeting during sessions of the UN General Assembly's first committee on disarmament and international security. These diplomatic gatherings constitute key occasions for the five permanent members of the Security Council to show the international community that their talk of a world free of nuclear weapons is more than empty rhetoric.

Efforts to prevent the use of chemical weapons, such as those currently in motion in response to Syria, are not only welcome, but indeed essential. The same arguments about the need to eradicate these weapons should apply, even more vigorously, to nuclear arsenals.

In Obama's televised address, the leader of the most powerful nation on Earth — and commander of its vast nuclear forces — spoke forcefully "of a world where we seek to ensure that the worst weapons will never be used."

If there can be a silver lining to the devastation in Syria, it might be in reminding the world that the only foolproof way to ensure that weapons of mass destruction — chemical, biological and nuclear — are never used is to completely eliminate them.


US intercontinental ballistic missile test
The US Air Force Global Strike Command test fired an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile on September 22. A second Minuteman III test-firing is scheduled for September 26. The US has an arsenal of 450 Minuteman III missiles. A Minuteman III test firing was postponed in April as the US did not want North Korea to "misinterpret" the missile test as a provocative act. Yet the timing of the September tests is also impolite − September 21 is the International Day of Peace, and a UN High-Level Meeting on Nuclear Disarmament takes place on September 26.

Nuclear aspects to the crisis in Syria

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Jim Green - Nuclear Monitor editor

There are a number of nuclear threads to the unfolding situation in Syria:

  • Concerns are being raised about the potential consequences of a military strike on a small research reactor near Damascus, and about the radiological consequences of military strikes on other sites as well as the potential for nuclear materials to be lost or stolen;
  • Syria was probably constructing a larger research reactor but the site was hit by an Israeli military strike in 2007 and quickly demolished by the Syrian state;
  • Syria's failure to provide information to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and to allow comprehensive safeguards inspections adds another sorry chapter to the saga of the international nuclear safeguards system (while the 2007 military strike indicates that Israel has no faith in the safeguards system);
  • Even if the Syrian state was complying with IAEA safeguards requests (for access and information), it is near impossible to maintain a meaningful safeguards regime in the context of widespread conflict (in this case civil war);
  • Syria's repeated attempts to develop nuclear facilities over the decades have, for the most part, been thwarted by political pressure exerted by the US and Israel on potential nuclear supplier states such as Argentina, India and Russia; and
  • Syria may have been the first nation state to advance nuclear weapons ambitions under the guise of a purported interest in nuclear desalination − but it will not be the last.

Russia has warned that a missile strike on Syria could have catastrophic effects if it hits a research reactor near Damascus.[1] "If a warhead, by design or by chance, were to hit the Miniature Neutron Source Reactor [MNSR] near Damascus, the consequences could be catastrophic," a September 5 statement by the Russian Foreign Ministry said. The statement calls on the IAEA to "react swiftly" and present IAEA members with "an analysis of the risks linked to possible American strikes on the MNSR and other facilities in Syria". The statement said nearby areas could be contaminated by highly enriched uranium and that it would be impossible to account for the nuclear material after such a strike.

Ambassador Bassam Al-Sabbagh, a senior Syrian diplomat, said on September 10 that he had voiced his nation's "deep concern" to IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano about the possible risks of a military strike on the MNSR. Al-Sabbagh said Syria "strongly" endorsed the Russian request for an assessment by IAEA: "I expressed our deep concern regarding the possible risks of any military attack on facilities under safeguards agreement."[2]

The US Ambassador to the IAEA, Joseph Macmanus, told an IAEA Board meeting on September 9 that such "comprehensive risk analyses of hypothetical scenarios are beyond the IAEA's statutory authority. The IAEA has never before conducted this type of analysis, and it would exceed IAEA's mandate, and have far-reaching implications that exceed IAEA capabilities and authorities."[3]

Amano said on September 9 that the IAEA was considering the Russian request.[4,5] He said that 1 kg of highly enriched uranium (HEU) is contained in the MNSR.[6] The HEU fuel is enriched to nearly 90% according to an IAEA document.[4]

Mark Hibbs from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace said the MNSR is a very small reactor but there could be "a serious local radiation hazard" if there was irradiated nuclear material in the reactor and it was dispersed by a military strike.[1]

Amano noted that additional radiological materials could be in storage at multiple Syrian medical and scientific facilities.[7] Former IAEA safeguards chief Olli Heinonen said Syria "should have substantial amounts" of atomic assets such as radioactive cobalt isotopes. Such holdings could be "of a greater concern, if they end up in wrong hands," Heinonen said. "Normally they are stored in protected vaults."[7]

2007 Israeli strike
On 6 September 2007, Israel bombed a desert site in Syria that US intelligence reports said was a partially completed 25MW(t) North Korean-designed gas-cooled graphite-moderated reactor, which would have been capable of producing enough plutonium for one or two weapons per year. Syria said the site was a conventional military facility.[12]

Echoing responses to Israel's strike on a research reactor in Iraq in 1981, then IAEA Director-General Mohamed El Baradei said in response to the 2007 strike: "If a country has information that another country is developing a secret nuclear program, the IAEA should be contacted because we have the power to investigate the issue."[8]

The IAEA released its latest report on this matter in late August − though it adds little to previous reports.[9] The latest IAEA report states that:

  • In June 2008, the IAEA Director General informed the Board of Governors that the Agency had been provided with information alleging that an installation at the Dair Alzour site (a.k.a. Al-Kibar), destroyed by Israel in September 2007, had been a nuclear reactor that was not yet operational and into which no nuclear material had been introduced. Information subsequently provided to the Agency included further allegations that the reactor was a gas cooled graphite moderated reactor, that it was not configured to produce electricity, that it had been built with the assistance of North Korea and that there were three other locations in Syria that were functionally related to the Dair Alzour site.
  • By the end of October 2007, large scale clearing and levelling operations had taken place at the site which had removed or obscured the remains of the destroyed building. Syria maintained that the destroyed building was a non-nuclear military installation and that Syria had had no nuclear related cooperation with the DPRK.
  • In June 2008, the Agency visited the Dair Alzour site and requested supporting documentation concerning the past and current use of the buildings at the Dair Alzour site and at three other locations allegedly functionally related to that site. Since that visit, Syria has not engaged substantively with the Agency on the nature of the Dair Alzour site or the three other locations.
  • In his May 2011 report to the Board of Governors, the Director General provided the Agency's assessment that, based on all the information available to the Agency and its technical evaluation of that information, it was very likely that the building destroyed at the Dair Alzour site was a nuclear reactor which should have been declared to the Agency. Concerning the three other locations, the Agency was unable to provide an assessment concerning their nature or operational status.
  • In June 2011, the Board of Governors voted in favour of a resolution which found that Syria's undeclared construction of a nuclear reactor at Dair Alzour and failure to provide design information for the facility constituted non-compliance by Syria with its obligations under its NPT Safeguards Agreement with the IAEA. The Board also decided to report Syria's non-compliance to the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly. (China and Russia voted against the IAEA Board of Governors resolution and subsequently opposed any action against Syria at the Security Council.)
  • During a meeting with the IAEA in Damascus in October 2011, a proposal regarding possible future actions that focused solely on the Dair Alzour site was discussed, but the IAEA concluded that the proposal was not acceptable given the conditions placed by Syria on IAEA verification activities at the site and the omission of the three other locations from the scope of the proposal. The Agency subsequently proposed to Syria to hold further discussions. In a February 2012 letter to the IAEA, Syria indicated that it would provide a detailed response at a later time, noting the difficult prevailing security situation in the country.
  • Civil conflict has further complicated the situation. In June 2013, the IAEA informed Syria that the 2013 physical inventory verification at the MNSR would be postponed until the security conditions had sufficiently improved. The IAEA continues to monitor satellite imagery of the MNSR, the yellowcake storage area at the Homs Phosphoric Acid Pilot Plant and other locations of safeguards relevance.

Furthermore, IAEA inspectors discovered undeclared anthropogenic uranium particles at the MNSR in 2008 and 2009. The investigation is ongoing, but the most recent information provided by Syria indicates that the particles originated from previously unreported activities involving the conversion of yellowcake to uranyl nitrate in 2004.[10]

Historical pursuit of nuclear facilities
According to the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), Syria has consistently pursued more advanced nuclear technologies.[10] The military has been a stakeholder in Syria's nuclear program since the 1970s, and Damascus has both openly and covertly sought the assistance of numerous parties, including the IAEA, China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea to develop its nuclear program.

The NTI notes that Syria is a very long way short of a nuclear weapons capability: it has a weak industrial infrastructure; poor scientific capabilities; lacks the trained engineers and other personnel needed to run a major civilian or weapons-oriented program; the MNSR yields only tiny quantities of plutonium in its spent fuel, while its highly enriched uranium fuel is insufficient in quantity for a nuclear weapon; and Syria has not developed full nuclear fuel-cycle expertise and is not known to possess reprocessing technologies.

Previous efforts to procure nuclear technology include the following:[8,10,11]

  • In 1990, Argentina's state-controlled National Institute of Applied Research (INVAP) agreed to provide Syria with a 10 MW(t) research reactor and a hot cell lab for producing radioisotopes, but the Argentinean government vetoed the deal in 1995, allegedly after receiving strong pressure from both the US and Israel to block the deal.
  • India's offer to provide Syria with a 5 MW(t) reactor was shelved in 1991 under significant US pressure.
  • In 1991, US and Israeli officials claimed China was working with Syria on weaponisation projects.
  • In 1998, Russia and Syria signed a deal for the peaceful use of nuclear power, which included a desalination facility powered by a 25 MW light-water reactor. The project did not progress and is likely to have collapsed under US pressure.
  • In 2003, Syria signed a deal with Russia that included a nuclear power plant and a nuclear desalination facility, but the deal did not progress.
  • A 2004 CIA report found that Pakistani nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan may have provided Syria with nuclear information and equipment although the claim was rejected by then IAEA Director-General Mohamed El Baradei.

Suspected fuel development site
A report released by the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) on September 12 said that ancillary facilities built to support the alleged Syrian reactor could still contain uranium and other material of potential value to terrorist groups or black-market profiteers. The Marj as Sulţān facility in Damascus may have been involved in developing reactor fuel for the reactor. The reactor would have needed about 50 tonnes of natural uranium fuel to operate.[13]

"The uranium could be anywhere within government controlled areas today, if it even remains in Syria," the ISIS report states. "Determining its fate must be a priority."

The report notes that any uranium fuel remaining in Syria is not weapons-grade and could not be used in nuclear bombs without further processing. While Syria's thousands of chemical weapons remain a higher priority, its nuclear assets "deserve significant attention". Syria also has radioactive sources and wastes which could be at risk of seizure, the ISIS report states, and these could cause greater radioactive harm than natural uranium.

Syria is not believed to have an active, secret nuclear program at this time, the ISIS report states, but it is believed to be actively hiding assets associated with its past, undeclared nuclear reactor effort. Both the Marj as Sulţān fuel development site and the (now demolished) reactor site have fallen under control of government opponents at times during the civil war. Rebels reportedly invited the IAEA to inspect the reactor site if they satisfied some unspecified conditions. The IAEA did not take up this offer, and it would have had no authority to do so, since its safeguards agreement is with the Syrian government. The UN would need to provide the IAEA with authority (and adequate protection) to inspect the site independent of the Syrian government, the ISIS report states.


In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

RWE looses again: Borssele has to remain in public hands.

RWE failed to gain 50% of the Netherlands' only nuclear power plant at Borssele through its takeover of Dutch utility Essent. The ruling by the Arnhem appeal court upholds an earlier ruling prohibiting Germany's RWE from acquiring Essent's 50% stake in the Borssele nuclear plant as part of its takeover of the Dutch utility. According to Delta, the appeal court decision has emphasized that the country's sole nuclear power plant must remain in public ownership. Any transfer of Essent's share of the plant to RWE would therefore contravene this. In September 2009, the transaction price for RWE's takeover of Essent was dropped by 950 million Euro (then worth US$1.35 billion) to take into account the exclusion of Borssele from the deal while Delta's court case against the proposed transfer was ongoing. Essent's share in the plant has remained in the hands of the provincial and municipal governments who were the company's original public shareholders.
The Dutch coalition government collapsed on February 20, when the two largest parties failed to agree on whether to withdraw troops from Afghanistan this year as planned. Elections are planned on June 9, with an expected right-wing victory. The extreme-right party PVV ('party for freedom') is expected to become one of the largest –or even the largest- party in parliament. The PVV is (besides anti-islam and with racist tendencies) extremely pro-nuclear, anti-wind & solar energy and does not believe in climate change ands speaks consistently about the environmental movement as the 'environmental maffia'.

The just fallen coalition government had agreed not to approve any new nuclear plants in the Netherlands during its mandate. Dutch utility Delta has announced plans to build a second nuclear plant at the site, embarking on the first stage of the pre-application process in June 2009.

German utility RWE has indicated it is also interested in building a nuclear power plant in the Netherlands, RWE CEO Juergen Grossmann said at the company's annual earnings press conference on February 25 in Essen, Germany

World Nuclear News, 3 March 2010 / Platts, 25 february 2010

USDOE: US$40 million for Next Generation Nuclear Plant.

On March 8, U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu announced selections for the award of approximately US$40 million in total to two teams led by Westinghouse Electric Co. and General Atomics for conceptual design and planning work for the Next Generation Nuclear Plant (NGNP).  The results of this work will help the Administration determine whether to proceed with detailed efforts toward construction and demonstration of the NGNP.  If successful, the NGNP Demonstration Project will demonstrate high-temperature gas-cooled reactor technology that will be capable of producing electricity as well as process heat for industrial applications and will be configured for low technical and safety risk with highly reliable operations.  Final cost-shared awards are subject to the negotiation of acceptable terms and conditions.

The NGNP project is being conducted in two phases.  Phase 1 comprises research and development, conceptual design and development of licensing requirements. The selections announced now will support the development of conceptual designs, cost and schedule estimates for demonstration project completion and a business plan for integrating Phase 2 activities. Phase 2 would entail detailed design, license review and construction of a demonstration plant.

U.S. Department Of Energy, Press Release 8 March 2010

Switzerland: Geneva will fight extension Muhleberg licence.

Geneva City Council has decided to appeal to the Federal Administrative Tribunal against the decision of the federal authorities to allow the 355 MW Mühleberg nuclear plant to continue operating beyond 2012, when it will have been 40 years in service. Geneva will contribute CHF 25,000 (US$23,000 or 17,000 Euro) to help meet the costs of a committee formed to oppose the licence extension. In November 2009 the electorate of the neighbouring canton of Vaud also voted against the extension. The centre-left Social Democrats and the Green Party are also opposing the licence extension.

Power In Europe, 22 February 2010 / Nuclear Monitor 702, 15 January 2010

Uranium mining - victory in Slovakia!

After more than three years of campaigning Slovak parliament finally agreed on legal changes in geological and mining laws in order to stop uranium mining in Slovakia. All the changes were proposed by anti-uranium mining coalition of NGOs led by Greenpeace and supported by over 113 000 people that signed the petition.  For Slovak environmental movement this is a really important milestone. For the first time in Slovak history NGO’s were able to:

1) collect over 100 000 signatures (a number given by law for the Parliament to discuss an issue) - note that Slovakia has 5 million citizens; 2) to open an environmental topic in Slovak parliament by a petition; 3) and finally to achieve a legal change by petition  initiative.

Legal changes agreed by parliament on March 3 are giving more information access and competencies for local communities, municipal and regional authorities to stop or limit geological research of uranium deposits and to stop proposed uranium mining. It’s not a complete ban of uranium mining, but a significant empower of local and regional authorities in the mining permitting process. All 41 municipal authorities influenced by proposed uranium mining already declared that they do not agree with proposed uranium mining in their territories.

The chance that Slovak uranium will stay deep in the ground is much higher today!

Greenpeace Slovensko, Bratislava, 4 March 2010

Uranium from stable and democratic countries?

One of Kazakhstan's most prominent business figures and a former uranium tycoon, Mukhtar Dzhakishev was arrested last year on accusations of corruption, theft and illegal sales of uranium assets to foreign companies. Dzhakishev's case, along with a string of other high-profile arrests in the former Soviet state and world No. 1 uranium producer, has fuelled speculation of an intensifying power struggle within the political elite.

Kazakhstan, hit hard by global economic slowdown, wants to attract fresh foreign investment as well as bolster the role of the state in strategic industries such as uranium and oil. It has also alarmed human rights groups who have questioned Kazakhstan's methods of fighting corruption in a country where President Nursultan Nazarbayev, in power for two decades, tolerates little political dissent.

Dzhakishev, who was head of state uranium major Kazatomprom from 1998 until his arrest and played a key role in turning Kazatomprom into a major global uranium player, has denied all accusations. "It is obvious that I cannot count on justice in my own country and my fate has already been decided," he wrote from his detention centre in a letter published by his lawyers this week. His arrest left Kazatomprom's foreign partners such as Canada's Uranium One worried about the future of their projects. Other investors include France's Areva and Japanese companies such as Toshiba Corporation. Closed-door court hearings into earlier allegations of theft and corruption have already started and lawyers expect a verdict in March.

Reuters, 4 March 2010

Israel to build reactor –but will not allow inspections?

Israel will shortly unveil plans to produce nuclear-generated electricity, officials said on March 8. Infrastructure Minister Uzi Landau said Israel, which has a population of 7.5 million and generates electricity mostly using imported coal and local and imported natural gas, is capable of building a nuclear reactor, but it would prefer to work with other countries. Israel already has two reactors -- the secretive Dimona facility in the Negev desert, where it is widely assumed to have produced nuclear weapons, and a research reactor, open to international inspection, at Nahal Soreq near Tel Aviv.

Unlike other countries in the region, Israel has not signed the 1970 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which is suppose to curb the spread of nuclear technologies with bomb-making potential. Yet Israel does have a delegation at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Landau said it would not be a problem for Israel to build a civilian reactor without signing the NPT: "There are many countries who are not signatories to the NPT and they are doing fine. There are others which are signatories and the world community did not really take proper care against proliferation," he said. Many countries? India, Pakistan and North-Korea (withdrawn), three (excuse me, four with Israel) and 189 signatories, you call that many? Asked whether IAEA inspectors would supervise the building of an Israeli plant, Landau said: "We take care very well of our own needs and don't need inspectors."

Reuters, 8 March 2010

…. And Syria? (March 11, 2010) Meanwhile, Israels' arch-foe Syria responded in Paris saying that Damascus needs "to consider alternative sources of energy, including nuclear energy." Syria's candidacy for the nuclear club will raise some eyebrows too, given the regime's close ties with Iran and the still unanswered questions over an earlier alleged attempt to build a reactor in secret. The International Atomic Energy Agency complained last year that Damascus had refused to cooperate with its investigation of a remote desert site called Dair Alzour, which was bombed by Israel in September 2007. Inspectors have found unexplained traces of uranium at the site, as well as at a nuclear research reactor in Damascus, amid reports that Syria has been working with Tehran and North Korea on covert nuclear programs.

AFP, 9 March 2010

Winter meeting of the Nuclear Heritage Network.

This relatively new network has been very active against uranium mining in Finland and is currently organising a Baltic Sea Info Tour (see and preparing new actions against nuclear new-build in the north-east region of Europe .

Their winter meeting will take place from March 24 to 29 in and close by Helsinki, Finland. This includes one day of action, aimed at the to be taken Finnish political decisions on more new nuclear power stations. An important project to be discussed for the summer will be the „Baltic Sea Info Tour“ that will take place to inform people around the Baltic Sea.

More information? Write an email to

Chernobyl-Day: concerted action to stop Mochovce 3+4. The Wiener Plattform "Atomkraftfreie Zukunft" (Viennese Platform "Nuclearfree Future") has taken the lead in organising an international action-day on April 26, the anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, against the construction of Mochovce 3+4 in Slovakia. (more on Mochovce in next issue).

They ask groups to demonstrate in front of Slovak and Italian embassies in as many countries as possible. A small delegation should submit a paper to the respective ambassadors. The paper explains the importance of stopping this dangerous Slovak nuclear power plant and says what the responsible people should do.

If these actions are carried out in numerous cities or capitals it should be effective enough to put pressure on Slovakia and the respective governments.  Please join the campaign and contact

Announcement: Anti Nuclear European Forum (ANEF) on June 24, in Linz, Austria.

ANEF was established 2009 as counter-event to ENEF (European Energy Forum) since ENEF failed to fulfill ENEF´s official objectives and was/is used one-sided as a propaganda instrument for the promotion of nuclear power instead. Within ANEF negative aspects of nuclear energy will be discussed on an international level. ANEF is organized by the Antinuclear Representative of Upper Austria in cooperation with “Antiatom Szene” and “Anti Atom Komitee”. The participation of international NGOs is very important because it needs a strong signal against the nuclear renaissance.

The organizers would like to warmly invite you to participate in ANEF. Please let us know as soon as possible if you, or someone else from your organization, is considering to participate in ANEF by sending an informal email to The detailed program will be available soon and will be send to you upon request. Accommodation will be arranged for you.
Further information on ANEF is published on Learn about ANEF-Resolution here: 

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

U.K.: What's in our dump?

The operators of the Drigg national low-level waste facility have asked former workers to tell them what is buried there. In an advert in local papers LLW Repository Limited asked workers who tipped nuclear waste into the site's open trenches over a 25-year period from 1960 to try and remember what it was they dumped. The company said it did have records of what was dumped but they wanted "a clearer picture".

Cumberland News 14 February 2009

Greenpeace: illegal state aid Romania and Bulgaria.

On February 25, Greenpeace has filed complaints to the European Commission over alleged illegal state aid for the construction of two nuclear reactors in Romania and two in Bulgaria. The environmental organization argues that both countries violate EU competition rules. Jan Haverkamp, EU energy campaigner for Greenpeace, said: "We have been investigating for many months the unfair competition conditions that have been granted to the nuclear sector in Romania and Bulgaria. We have now submitted the evidence we have collected to the European Commission, and are calling for urgent action to correct these flagrant market distortions."

The Romanian government earmarked 220 million Euro for the Cernavoda 3 and 4 nuclear power plant. On top of this, the state spent EUR350 million in taxpayers´ money for the purchase of heavy water for the new power station, as well as EUR800 million to increase the capital of state utility S.N. Nuclearelectrica - S.A., with the purpose of supporting its financial contributions to the project.

The Bulgarian government has invested 300 million Bulgarian Leva (154 million Euro) in state utility NEK for the construction of the Belene nuclear power station, as well as another 400 million Leva (205 million Euro) in NEK's parent holding BEH, partly also meant for Belene. According to Greenpeace, all of these investments are in violation of EU competition law.

Press release, Greenpeace EU Unit, 25 February 2009

EDF debt increased to nearly 25 billion Euro.

French energy group and the world’s biggest operator of nuclear power stations, EDF could be forced to sell some of its power stations in France to help to fund its £12.2 billion acquisition of Britain’s nuclear industry. EDF shocked investors by unveiling a fall of nearly 40 per cent in annual profits (slipped to 3.54 billion euro in 2008, compared with 5.6 billion Euro in 2007) and warning that its debt pile had increased to nearly €25 billion (US$ 32 billion) after a string of acquisitions, including those of British Energy and America’s Constellation Energy.

EDF, which is 85 % owned by the French State, is aiming to cut its debt by at least 5 billion Euro by the end of 2010 and much of this would be achieved through asset sales. A number of foreign energy companies, including Enel, of Italy, have previously expressed an interest in entering the French power market.

The Times (U.K.), 13 february 2009

GDF Suez pulls out of Belene!

An important victory and another sign that the Belene project is too risky! French utility GDF Suez has decided to pull out of Bulgaria's planned nuclear plant of Belene. GDF Suez's Belgian subsidiary Electrabel had been in talks to take part in German utility RWE's 49-percent stake in Bulgaria's 4 billion Euro plant. RWE confirmed it had not reached an agreement with GDF Suez but said it would continue to develop the project as planned. "Financial, technical, economic and organization questions are in focus and safety of course comes first in all our considerations," a RWE spokesman told Reuters. Sources familiar with the Bulgarian nuclear project have said the global financial crisis and tighter liquidity have made raising funding extremely difficult and that it was likely the plant's starting date would go beyond the planned 2013-2014.

GDF Suez is focusing on its other nuclear projects, a company spokesman said. The company is trying to grab a share of the nuclear revival with plans to take part in the second and possibly the third new-generation French nuclear reactors as well as in nuclear power projects in Britain, Romania and in Abu Dhabi.

Reuters, 28 February 2009

More delays for Rokkasho.

The commercial start-up of Japan’s Rokkasho reprocessing plant has suffered a further delay. On January 30, its owner, Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd (JNFL), filed an application with the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) to change its construction plan, pushing the scheduled completion date of the plant back to August 2009. A few years ago JNFL had planned to commence full operation of the plant in November 2007.

Groups and individuals have been campaigning against this plant ever since 1985, when Aomori Prefecture agreed to allow it to be constructed. If the Rokkasho reprocessing ever operates at full capacity, it will reprocess 800 tons of spent fuel and extract about 8 tons of plutonium per year. In the course of regular operations, when spent fuel assemblies are cut up (shearing), radioactive gases are released from the chimney stack. These include radioactive isotopes of krypton, xenon, iodine, cesium, etc.. Later in the process, other radioactive materials are released into the sea as liquid waste. These include tritium, carbon-14, iodine-129, plutonium, etc.. It is said that a reprocessing plant releases as much radioactivity in one day as a nuclear reactor releases in one year.

In addition, there are international concerns that the operation of the Rokkasho reprocessing plant will accelerate trends towards nuclear proliferation. The process used at Rokkasho will produce a 1:1 mixed oxide of plutonium and uranium. The Japanese government says that it is difficult to produce nuclear weapons from this. However, this is not true. Scientists in the US, and also the International Atomic Energy Agency, recognize that this material can readily be transformed into nuclear weapons.

Nuclear Engineering International, 18 February 2009 / Nuke Info Tokyo (CNIC)

U.K.: Leaked for 14 years.

Radioactive waste leaked from a decontamination unit at the Bradwell nuclear power station for 14 years, Chelmsford Crown Court was told late January. The operators, Magnox Electric, were found guilty of allowing unauthorized disposal of radioactive waste from 1990 to 2004 when the problem was discovered. The court was told the leak was caused by poor design and no routine inspection or maintenance. Chief inspector for the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate, Mike Weightman, said it was not possible to "inspect or check every feature of a complex plant" but once the leak was discovered regulators took quick action.

N-base 601, 11 February 2009

Iraq takes first step to nuclear power, again….

On February 22, Iraqi Electricity Minister Karim Wahid says Baghdad is taking initial steps to construct the country's first nuclear power plant in cooperation with France. "I am willing to enter into contacts with the French nuclear agency and to start to build a nuclear power plant, because the future is nuclear," said Wahid. Iraq had sealed a contract with France to construct a nuclear reactor during Saddam Hussein's regime in 1976. The construction of the Osirak reactor however remained unfinished after Israeli warplanes bombed the facility in 1981. Tel Aviv accused the regime of building nuclear weapons. In the 1990 Iraq was accused of having a secret nuclear weapons program. Already in 1991 in the first few days of Gulf War I Iraqi nuclear energy capability (research reactor, hot-cells, etc.) was said to be destroyed by the US-led international coalition. However, in the decade that followed Iraq was still accused of having a covert nuclear program, but in search of such a program, after the Gulf War-II in 2003 nothing was found.

Press TV (Iraq), 22 February 2009 / Laka Foundation, sources 1992 & 2003

France: TV show reveals radioactive risk.

Fears that radioactive material taken from France’s old uranium mines has been used in construction have been raised by a TV documentary. According to investigators for the program Pièces à Conviction (Incriminating evidence), there are many sites where radioactive material is a potential health risk including schools, playgrounds, buildings and car parks. Very little uranium is now mined in Europe, but France carried out mining from 1945 – 2001 at 210 sites which have now been revealed by IRSN, the Institute of Radioprotection and Nuclear Safety on its website. Problems stem from millions of tons of reject rock which contained small amount of uranium which are still stocked at some of the sites along with 50 million tons of waste from extraction factories.
The documentary on France 3 also revealed that some reject rock has also been used as construction rubble in areas used by the public, that there have been some radioactive leaks into the environment from waste and that some “rehabilitated” areas where building has been taken place had been contaminated with radon. Before the program went out Areva had lodged a complaint about it with the Conseil Supérieur de l’Audiovisuel concerned that its intention was to make accusations against the firm. The program makers said they had “opened a national debate on uranium waste in France”.

The Connection (Fr.), 13 February 2009

Largest Pu transport ever from Europe to Japan.

Secret preparations are underway in Britain and France for shipping 1.8 tons of plutonium, the largest quantity of plutonium ever shipped by sea. The plutonium is contained in 65 assemblies of MOX (mixed plutonium and uranium oxide) fuel and is being shipped to Japan for use in the nuclear power plants of three Japanese electric utilities. No details have been revealed, but it is reported that the fuel will be transported by two British-flagged vessels, escorting each other.

The vessels are to depart Europe anytime on or after March 1st. Neither the hour of departure nor the maritime route to be used will be revealed before the ships depart. The United States must approve the transport plan before the shipment can proceed. The MOX fuel to be transported has been fabricated in France by Areva NC. The three possible routes for the shipment are around the Cape of Good Hope and through the South Pacific, around South America, or, through the Panama Canal.

Japanese electric utilities hope the fuel to be shipped will start its troubled MOX fuel utilization program which was to begin a decade ago in 1999. Many more shipments are scheduled to follow and could take different routes.

Green Action (Japan) Press Release 24th Feb 2009

IAEA: Syrian uranium-traces manmade.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has said traces of uranium taken from the site of an alleged nuclear reactor in Syria were manmade. The report by the IAEA on the Dair Alzour site puts strong pressure on Damascus as it rejects the Syrian explanation for the presence of uranium.

The IAEA-report says that after an initial visit in June 2008, which revealed the presence of processed uranium, inspectors had not been allowed back to Dair Alzour and other sites where debris might have been stored, on the grounds they were "military installations".

IAEA denounces the Syrian government for its lack of cooperation with the agency's inquiry. "Syria has stated that the origin of the uranium particles was the missiles used to destroy the building," the IAEA report says. "The agency's current assessment is that there is a low probability that the uranium was introduced by the use of missiles as the isotopic and chemical composition and the morphology of the particles are all inconsistent with what would be expected from the use of uranium-based munitions."

The IAEA says Israel also failed to cooperate, but its findings give weight to the Israeli and US allegation that Dair Alzour was a secret reactor intended for eventual production of weapons. The report explicitly questions Syria's denials.

Circulation of the IAEA-report is restricted; it cannot be released to the public unless the IAEA Board decides otherwise. However, it can be found at:

Guardian, 19 February 2009