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Theory and practice: the example of Gorleben

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
WISE Amsterdam

In 1977 the Gorleben saltdome was assigned as the location for the disposal of German high-level radioactive waste. The mine, planned to be used as a disposal site for high-level radioactive waste in a saltdome at Gorleben, is about half finished. Until now, 1.3 billion Euro is spent. It will take a few decades more before the first waste-container can be stored, unless the whole project is skipped due to ungoing scientific and popular opposition.

At 840 meters below surface there is a large space with nets under the ceiling to prevent pieces of salt from falling down. There are two shafts 400 meters from eachother. Between both shafts a system of horizontal galleries (7,5 meter wide and 5 meter high) is constructed to allow natural air circulation. It is 37 degrees Celcius and there are measuring apparatus in side-walls, floor and ceiling to measure the convergence: the movement of salt. In 3,5 years (2002-2005) the convergence was 60 centimeters. Therefore employees have to scrape the galleries to keep them at the necessary height.

In 2005 Joachim Kutowski (head of the Department Geology Gorleben of the DBE -the German Company for Contruction and Operation of Final Waste Disposal) pointed out that saltdomes are not very suitable for retrievable storage of radioactive waste, because in time the galleries will silt up. Furthermore the radioactive waste produces heat and the containers can sink away in warmer salt layers and it would then not be easy to locate them if necessary for retrieval. The highest point of the saltdome is 250 meters below the surface level.

During construction the DBE located several carnallite-layers (hydrated potassium-magnesium-chloride) which had to be sidestepped. Therefor the actual disposal will, according to Kutowski, be at a different location at the dome than originally foreseen. Because the high level waste produces heat, the casks have to be stored 50 meters from each other. Given the amount of waste, twice as much space is needed as available now. From the galleries and shafts holes have to be digged out to store the waste in.

One of the reasons for the opposition to believe the saltdome is not suitable is that it is not even meeting its own standards: there should be a layer of impermeable clay over the saltdome, but it is missing for a few square kilometers. So the question is why Gorleben was chosen in the first place? Kutowski states that the decision to see Gorleben as the prime location might not have been taken on just geological grounds but also for political reasons: unemployment, located near the East-German border (but after the reunification in 1990 is was suddenly located in the heart of Germany) Kutowski said in 2005: “So there was no pile of scientific evidence in favor of Gorleben. It was about finding a suitable location, not the best available one”.

This was again confirmed in April this year when it was revealed that in de mid 1980s government geologists were bullied by top government officials to change their findings regarding the suitability of the Gorleben location.

This has been revealed by Professor Helmut Röthemeyer, pensioned former department head of the Federal Physics Technology Agency (PTB), which examined the salt deposit at Gorleben in the mid-80s. The PTB commissioned deep drilling of the salt dome and because of what they revealed it advised against using the salt as a final nuclear repository. The testdrillings hadn’t delivered the hoped-for findings. It was discovered that in the Ice Age a groove was made by a runnel (a small stream) through the stone covering the salt making the stone “unable to hold back contaminations from the biosphere over time”.

When a meeting was called with another federal agency to discuss the findings and the recommendation to explore other sites, Röthemeyer explaines, unexpectedly representatives of the federal chancellor’s [prime minister’s] office, the research and technology ministry and the interior ministry also attended. (There was no environment ministry until after the Chernobyl explosion in Ukraine.) The ministry officials demanded that the PTB change its findings. "There was nothing in writing,” Röthemeyer told the newspaper, “there was no written order, but we clearly had to take that conversation as an order.”

The group fighting nuclear waste dumping at Gorleben says they’ve twice demanded the Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS), which succeeded the PTB, to hand them records of the position taken by the PTB or to at least see them. “The irrelevant criteria for the 1977choice of location paired with this wrong course setting in the mid-80s led nuclear waste disposal into the next dead end,” says the group’s media spokesman, Wolfgang Ehmke on April 19, 2009.

In the 2000 Phase-out law, a 10-year moratorium was declared to give the then SPD/Green coalition time to renew the search for another site. Very little happened afterwards.

In September last year a damning report about nuclear waste leaking from the Asse II storage facility in Lower Saxony became known. The report said nearly 130,000 barrels of low- to medium-grade nuclear waste had been mishandled and warned that groundwater leaking from the mine was radioactive. Environment minister Gabriel said Asse-II was "the most problematic nuclear facility in Europe" -- in part because the mine stood in danger of collapse. The Asse scandal (Asse II is geologically similar to Gorleben) could derail the plans of the CDU/CSU to start drilling again at Gorleben as soon as possible in order to show the population that progress was being made on the issue of storage and to postpone the planned phaseout of nuclear power.


Sources: Press release, BI Luchow-Dannenberg, 19 April 2009 / Der Spiegel online, 4 September 2008 / Nuclear Monitor 625, 8 April 2005

'Reducing the hazard'

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

When the phrase “reducing the hazard” is used, usually it means reprocessing and/or transmutation.

However: Transmutation does not eliminate the need for a repository for high-level waste and spent fuel!

First, no transmutation scheme is able to deal with all of the radionuclides of concern since many cannot be transmuted for practical purposes. Second, transmutation of Technetium-99 and Iodine-129 is not 100% effective, even with multiple passes through the reactor, and new long-lived fission products are created from the fission of the actinides. Third, fissioning of the actinides is not 100% effective. The composition of the residual transuranic waste would be shifted towards higher isotope actinides and the waste would thus be more radioactive. This would pose greater radiological risks and complicate disposal. Finally, since cesium-137 will be disposed of in the repository with cesium-135, the large amount of heat generated by it would mean that the space requirements for disposal could be considerable.

Transmutation, even in the context of a phase-out of nuclear power, would also require decades to implement and possibly centuries to complete. This may require institutional control over the waste for time periods much longer than is feasible or desirable.

Implications of Transmutation

Proliferation. All transmutation schemes require reprocessing of transuranic radionuclides. While these schemes may not yield materials attractive to weapons designers in nuclear weapons states, they can be used to make nuclear weapons and would pose significant proliferation risks in that non-state groups or non-weapons states might seek to acquire and use them. Even the reprocessing methods that are labeled as proliferation resistant, such as pyroprocessing, can be easily modified to allow for the extraction of plutonium pure enough to make weapons. These types of facilities may in fact increase proliferation risks due to their compact size and potential problems in developing adequate safeguards. Furthermore, promotion of transmutation as a waste management tool may result in the widespread transfer of this technology.

Environment and Health. Reprocessing, which is required by all transmutation schemes, is one the most damaging components of the fuel cycle. It results in large volumes of waste and radioactive emissions to air and water. Its health impacts on workers, off-site residents, and even far away populations are well documented. Because fuel fabrication does not involve the production of liquid waste, its effects are mainly restricted to workers and are on the same order as for workers in the reprocessing sector. The increased radiological risk of handling fuel that has been repeatedly irradiated is cause for serious concern. Finally, the increased transportation of high level waste required under a number of transmutation schemes would increase the probability of a transportation accident with its attendant effects.

Reactor Safety. Transmutation would require the development and implementation of new reactor technologies and/or the expanded use of existing reactors. Some of these new reactors have been described as "inherently safe." However, increases in certain safety features, in comparison with existing reactors, is countered by decreases in other safety features and the creation of new safety problems unique to the new reactor designs. For example, some feedback effects that help prevent a runaway reaction in existing reactors do not exist in some transmutation reactors.

Cost. The cost of transmutation, particularly for the advanced schemes that would be required in order to have significant reduction of actinides, is prohibitively expensive. Furthermore, while electricity would be produced to offset these costs, it is highly unlikely that these revenues will be sufficient. Transmutation would likely require tens of billions of dollars to develop, and additional large subsidies even during operations, when electric power sales are expected to generate some revenue.

Continuation of Nuclear Power. Transmutation is not only considered in the context of managing the waste from the current generation of nuclear reactors (i.e. as part of a phase-out of nuclear power). Most transmutation schemes, particularly in Europe and Japan, assume an indefinite continuation of nuclear power, with transmutation as one part of a new nuclear fuel cycle. By supposedly solving some of the current problems with nuclear power, transmutation is seen by some as essential to ensuring the continued growth of nuclear power.


Source: "The Nuclear Alchemy Gamble: An Assessment of Transmutation as a Nuclear Waste Management Strategy", IEER, available at:

Australian government poised for announcement on controversial waste dump

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Natalie Wasley, Beyond Nuclear Initiative

After a decade of a haphazard and bullying approach to radioactive waste management, there had been a cautious sigh of relief when Labor committed to a different approach. The Rudd Labor government has continued with a culture of secrecy and broken promises regarding radioactive waste management in Australia. Recently the Australian Labor Party voted against a motion put up by the Greens to repeal the controversial waste dump laws, leaving targeted communities extremely concerned that an announcement of a dumpsite will be made soon.

The previous conservative Liberal/National government spent ten years trying to force a national radioactive waste dump on Kokatha land in South Australia. A strong community campaign led by Senior Aboriginal cultural women, the Kungka Tjuta, and supported by national environment, health and student groups and the South Australian government forced the federal government to abandon that plan in 2004.

The Kupa Piti Kungka Tjuta wrote in an open letter: "People said that you can't win against the Government. Just a few women. We just kept talking and telling them to get their ears out of their pockets and listen. We never said we were going to give up. Government has big money to buy their way out but we never gave up. We told Howard you should look after us, not try and kill us. Straight out. We always talk straight out. In the end he didn't have the power, we did."

Though there was a ‘categorical assurance’ that a federal radioactive dump would not be imposed on another location in the Northern Territory (NT) of Australia, in July 2005 it was announced that three Department of Defence sites - Harts Range, Fisher’s Ridge and Mt Everard- had been short-listed for assessment.

There was no consultation with the Northern Territory Government or affected Traditional Owners and communities. None.

The draconian and undemocratic Commonwealth Radioactive Waste Management Act (CRWMA) 2005 was then pushed through federal parliament, overriding NT laws prohibiting transport and storage of nuclear waste. A raft of environmental, public health and safety protections went out the window because of this legislation. The legislation even prevents the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage Protection Act 1984 from having effect during investigation of potential dumpsites.

Amendments passed the following year to the CRWMA override Aboriginal Land Rights Act procedures requiring informed consent from all affected people and groups. In fact, these changes explicitly state that site nominations from Aboriginal Land Councils are valid even in the absence of consultation with and consent from traditional owners.

Under the amended process, a site in the Muckaty land trust (120 km north of Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory) was nominated by the Northern Land Council. Former Science Minister Julie Bishop accepted the contentious nomination in September 2007.

Though a small number of traditional owners agreed to the nomination in return for an Aus$12 million dollar conditional package (if the site is finally selected), there has been sustained public opposition from a much larger group of traditional owners from the Land Trust.

 Sammy Sambo, an elder of the Milwayi clan of Muckaty expresses the concern held by many people; “We use that land for men’s cultural ceremonies which came from our great grandfather. If they put a waste dump at Muckaty it betrays the next generation”.

Julie Bishop had arrogantly asserted that the sites under assessment were “far from any houses” and “some distance from any form of civilization”. Traditional Owner from Mt Everard, Steven McCormack emphasizes; “This land is not empty - people live right nearby. We hunt and collect bush tucker here and I am the custodian of a sacred site within the boundaries of the defense land. We don't want this poison here”.

Steven and his family live only three kilometers from the Mt Everard site and run a number of small business projects from their homeland, including hosting ‘culture camps’ for school children from interstate.

The Harts Range site is near Alcoota Station, a thriving Aboriginal owned and run cattle enterprise. William Tilmouth, chairman of Alcoota Aboriginal Corporation says that; “Other pastoralists have also expressed concern over the perception by the public that the beef will be contaminated. The cattle industry out here prides itself on being clean and green”.

In relation to the dump, the government has promised only 30 jobs for construction and 6 ongoing security positions (operating on rotation). Local industries near all of the proposed sites provide community based and long term employment for many more people.

A number of senior Australian Labor Party Ministers and Senators released media statements prior to the 2007 federal election pledging repeal of the CRWMA if elected. ALP politicians had referred to the legislation as ‘draconian’, ‘sordid’, ‘arrogant’ and ‘profoundly shameful’ when it was rammed through by the previous regime.

The Labor party’s national conference in April 2007 also voted to repeal the Commonwealth Radioactive Waste Management Act (CRWMA) if elected, with Labor promised a method of addressing radioactive waste management issues which is "scientific, transparent, accountable, fair and allows access to appeal mechanisms" and to "ensure full community consultation in radioactive waste decision-making processes". [1]

After a decade of a haphazard and bullying approach to radioactive waste management, there had been a cautious sigh of relief when Labor committed to a different approach. However, the Rudd Government, with Minister Martin Ferguson in charge of the radioactive waste portfolio, has continued to be every bit as secretive.

On March 18, 2009, the ALP voted against a motion put up by the Greens to repeal the controversial waste dump laws, leaving targeted communities extremely concerned that an announcement of a dumpsite will be made soon.

The UK Committee on Radioactive Waste report released in June 2006 highlights how internationally; “There is a growing recognition that it is not ethically acceptable for a society to impose a radioactive waste facility on an unwilling community” [2].

In the case of the Northern Territory waste dump proposal, Muckaty Traditional Owner Marlene Bennett summarizes the approach;

“Most of our mob, we found out when we read it in the paper. What sort of consultative approach by the government is that?”

Australia remains a signatory to the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) statement of principles, which encourages uranium-exporting countries to take back high-level waste produced overseas in nuclear reactors. While the Rudd Labor government has ruled this out in the short term, it is important that international campaign groups support the remote Aboriginal communities in Australia resisting the imposition of a domestic dump, to resist the possibility of a high level international dump also being imposed in the future.

Dianne Stokes, a Muckaty Traditional Owner from the Yapa Yapa group who has spent years fighting the dump proposal expounds; “Top to bottom we got bush tucker right through the country. Whoever is taking this waste dump into our country needs to come back and talk to the Traditional Owners. We’re not happy to have all of this stuff. We don’t want it, it’s not our spirit. Our spirit is our country, our country where our ancestors been born. Before towns, before hospitals, before cities. We want our country to be safe”.



Source and contact: Natalie Wasley at Beyond Nuclear Initiative, Uranium Project.

WIPP requests stimulus funding for already funded work

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety

The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) in New Mexico, USA, celebrated the tenth anniversary of receiving its first shipment of transuranic waste by asking for US$170 million (128 million Euros) from the stimulus bill, called the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The stimulus bill aims to create jobs, restore economic growth and strengthen America's middle class. The funding is required to be used by September 30, 2011.

The WIPP Recovery Act Project proposes to accelerated the disposal of transuranic waste, as well as completing the certification requirements for a new, large shipping container, called a TRUPACT-III, and replace equipment, make renovations, conduct preventive maintenance, and make infrastructure improvements at the WIPP site. Such improvements include purchasing a crane, forklifts, vehicles, radiation contamination equipment and repaving the access road.

In 1979, Congress authorized the Department of Energy (DOE) to construct WIPP 26 miles east of Carlsbad, New Mexico. The radioactive and hazardous waste is buried 2,150 ft. beneath the surface in a salt formation. DOE claims that WIPP has been constructed to demonstrate the safe underground disposal of transuranic nuclear weapons waste presently stored at DOE facilities across the U.S.

Activists are concerned that WIPP is asking for stimulus funding for work it has either already been paid for or work that should be funded under its annual appropriations. Don Hancock, with Southwest Research and Information Center, has raised concerns for years about the additional funding WIPP receives each year from Congress above its budget request and the decreasing amount of waste disposed, compared with the planned performance. For example, last year WIPP received the least amount of waste for disposal in the last seven years, but received almost $235 million in funding, 107% of what was requested. Hancock said, “Because of a two-month shutdown, we already know that WIPP won’t meet its disposal goals this year, even though it is receiving $20 million more than it requested. Rather than getting more money, it should use its existing, more than adequate funding.”

On the other hand, Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) has not asked for funding to address ground and surface water contamination that may impact Santa Fe’s drinking water supplies. Each year, LANL receives about $140 million for cleanup activities. LANL anticipates receiving an additional $200 million in stimulus funding. They have proposed to remove buildings and dig up old waste dumps at Technical Area 21, which is located on DP Road in downtown Los Alamos. These projects have been on the agenda for years, but have not received adequate funding.

CCNS remains concerned that stopping the transport of contamination through the canyons to the Rio Grande is not a LANL priority, nor is the investigation of the hexavalent chromium plume in the regional aquifer. Southwest Research and Information Center and CCNS urge DOE to shift the stimulus money that WIPP is requesting to focus on the water contamination problems at LANL.


Source: CCNS News Update, 27 March 2009
Contact: Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety, 107 Cienega Street, Santa Fe, NM 87501, USA.
Tel +1- 505 986-1973

Obama de-funds Yucca Mountain

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Michael Marriott

In the first step toward permanently ending the controversial proposed Yucca Mountain, Nevada high-level radioactive waste dump, President Barack Obama’s first budget ends nearly all funding for the project -- fulfilling an Obama campaign promise.

Yes, elections do matter.

The decision to end nearly all funding for Yucca Mountain was announced quietly, tucked away at the very end of Obama’s initial FY 2010 budget statement for the Department of Energy: “The Yucca Mountain program will be scaled back to those costs necessary to answer inquiries from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, while the Administration devises a new strategy toward nuclear waste disposal.”

Full budget documents have not yet been released, so how much those “costs necessary…” will amount to isn’t yet known. But administration officials, including Energy Secretary Steven Chu, have made it clear that the Yucca Mountain project is finished. Under intense questioning from pro-nuclear Senators, Secretary Chu told the Senate Budget Committee March 11 that the Energy Department will set up a high-level panel to review U.S. radioactive waste policy and submit recommendations by the end of the year.

Some of the senators, such as New Hampshire Republican Judd Gregg, were less upset about the end of the Yucca Mountain project than at the signal ending the project says about the future of nuclear power. They were also concerned that in his quasi-State of the Union speech in February, Obama listed several energy technologies his administration will support; nuclear power was not among them.

Chu told the senators that nuclear power is “an essential part of our energy mix” and promised to accelerate the existing $18.5 Billion (14 Billion Euro) loan guarantee program for new reactor construction. But Chu didn’t promise to seek or support more loan guarantees. And it’s unclear how the existing program could be accelerated in practical terms, since no new reactors are even close to obtaining licenses from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), Yucca Mountain’s strongest opponent in Congress, introduced a bill on March 12 to establish an independent commission to re-evaluate U.S. radioactive waste policy. Reid’s bill, which at Monitor press time did not yet have a number, would set up a 9-person commission of which four members would be appointed by Democratic leadership, four by Republican leadership, with a chairman appointed jointly by Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). No member of the commission could currently work on the DOE’s high-level waste program, nor be employed by the government at any level —federal, state or local.

The commission would be required to issue a final report within 2 years on feasibility, cost, risks, legal, public health and environmental impacts of alternatives to Yucca Mountain and their impacts on local communities, including:

  • Transferring responsibility for managing nuclear waste to a government corporation
  • Cost sharing options between the Federal government and private industry for developing nuclear fuel management technologies
  • Centralized interim storage facilities in communities willing to host them
  • Research and development for advanced fuel cycle technologies
  • Federal government taking title to nuclear waste
  • Secure on-site storage of nuclear waste
  • Permanent deep geologic storage for civilian and defense wastes
  • Other management and technological approaches as the Commission may see fit

The idea for such a commission first surfaced in the early 1990s, by then-Senator Richard Bryan of Nevada and hundreds of environmental groups, which were already working to stop the Yucca Mountain project and expose its inability to meet waste disposal regulations.

Yucca Mountain was chosen as the only site being examined for a high-level waste dump by Congress in 1987. Even then, it was widely perceived as a political, rather than scientific decision. At the time, three sites were under consideration: Yucca, and sites in Texas and Washington state. But the huge Texas congressional delegation teamed up with the then-Speaker of the House, who was from Washington, and forced Yucca Mountain as the only possible site in what became known as the “screw Nevada” bill.

Twenty-two years and billions of dollars later, it appears as though Nevada may be getting the last laugh.

The largest concern for environmental groups now is who will make up the composition of the DOE panel and the independent commission —should Reid’s legislation be enacted— and what future radioactive waste policy for the U.S. may look like. A focus on reprocessing, for example, would be certain to arouse strong opposition from the environmental community, but it is increasingly common to hear nuclear industry spokespeople support reprocessing as their preferred option.

Source and contact: Michael Mariotte at Nuclear Information & Recourse Service (NIRS)
6930 Carroll Avenue, Suite 340,
Takoma Park, MD 20912. USA


E.U.-States plan a European Repository Development Organisation

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

A series of 14 European states has set up a working group to consider establishing a European Repository Development Organization (ERDO) to collaborate on nuclear waste disposal. The Working Group (the ERDO-WG) held its first meeting in Brussels on January 28, 2009, with the objective of completing its deliberations by mid-2010.

The ERDO proposal stems from the SAPIERR Project (Strategic Action Plan for Implementation of European Regional Repositories), funded by the European Commission (EC). On January 27, at the final conference of this project in Brussels the results on the viability of shared, regional European geological repositories were presented to 50 participants from 21 countries. The different aspects of the project included organizational and legal issues, economic impacts, safety and security considerations, and public and political attitudes to multinational repositories. Project Manager of the Netherlands waste agency COVRA Ewoud Verhoef, who coordinated SAPIERR-2 explains the meaning of ERDO-WG.

In the period 2003 to 2005 the SAPIERR I (Support Action on a Pilot Initiative for European Regional Repositories) was devoted to pilot studies on the feasibility of shared regional storage facilities and geological repositories, for use by European countries. This Pilot Project was initiated by the Association for Regional and International Underground Storage (Arius). This organization was founded in 2002 to promote the concept of regional and international facilities for storage and disposal of all types of long-lived nuclear wastes. One of the main objectives of SAPIERR I was to explore ways of providing shared storage and disposal facilities for smaller users. Meaning a scientific sequel to a 2002 EC Directive stating that geological disposal of radioactive wastes was preferred and that “A regional approach, involving two or more countries, could also offer advantages especially to countries that have no or limited nuclear programs, insofar as it would provide a safe and less costly solution for all parties.” The main conclusions of the nuclear waste agency's were: the potential benefits of multinational, regional repositories are recognized widely; and shared repositories would lead to substantial reductions in expenditure; problems faced by regional repository initiatives are common to those being tackled by national disposal programs, in particular concerning the task of siting the facility.

SAPIERR II was aimed to propose a practical implementation strategy and organizational structures that will enable a group of countries to create a formalized, structured organization - a European Development Organization (EDO). An organization that could be established from 2008 for working on shared EU radioactive waste storage and disposal activities in parallel with national waste agencies. The main tasks within the project were among others: preparation of a management study on the legal and business options for establishing an EDO; a study on the legal liability issues of international waste transfer within Europe; a study of the potential economic implications of European regional stores and repositories; first considerations of the safety and security impacts of implementing regional repositories; and a survey of public and political attitudes towards regional stores and repositories and of approaches to involving communities in decision making.

The 14 countries backing the ERDO proposal are: Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia. The secretariat will be provided by Arius, based in Switzerland, and the administration by the Netherlands waste agency, COVRA.

Ewoud Verhoef, Project Manager of COVRA, states that ERDO-WG is the political sequel of SAPIERR Project: “Based on the findings of SAPIERR the Working Group has to facilitate a consensus on political level. First step is working on the terms of reference and the decision-making process, using the SAPIERR findings as a starting point, with the objective of completing its deliberations by mid-2010. At that stage, the participant countries will decide whether to go ahead and establish the ERDO and, if so, with what national membership.” Asking what would be the next step Mr. Verhoef responds: “The next step is how the waste repository (or repositories) will looks like and to define the criteria of the waste repository (or repositories), including social aspects. This process will take 10 to 25 years, after which a set of measures have to be presented that would be attractive for municipalities – with appropriate site locations - to accept. After all it can be a slow process, there has to be reached political consensus.” Verhoef added that he expects that the building of the storage facility and the agreements on it will be politically seen the most difficult issues. Further he stresses that the storage facility will be built in one of the participating states.

Sources: World Nuclear News, 11 February 2009 / Arius: / SAPIERR Project: / Telephone conversation with Verhoef, 23 & 24 February 2009

EPR-waste seven times more hazardous

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Rianne Teule, Greenpeace International Nuclear Campaigner

Greenpeace has uncovered evidence that nuclear waste from the European Pressurised Reactor (EPR), the flagship of the nuclear industry, will be up to seven times more hazardous than waste produced by existing nuclear reactors, increasing costs and the danger to health and the environment. This was revealed –one day after French President Sarkozy's decision to build a second EPR in France- in an exclusive story in International Herald Tribune (IHT).

The alarming evidence was buried in the environmental impact assessment report from Posiva, the company responsible for managing waste at the world's first EPR under construction at Olkiluoto in Finland ("Posiva's Expansion of the Repository for Spent Nuclear Fuel, Environmental Impact Assessment Report", 2008), and in EU-funded research (Nagra Technical report 04-08: "Estimates of the Instant Release Fraction for UO2 and MOX-fuel at t = 0").

This means that not only will spent nuclear fuel produced by the EPR be more dangerous than is acknowledged by the French nuclear industry, but also storage and disposal will be more expensive than the industry and governments proclaim, and will increase the overall cost of nuclear energy. The French nuclear companies Areva and EDF, which aggressively market the EPR as safe and cheap, have completely ignored the implications of the increased hazards," explained John Large, an independent nuclear consultant.

No appropriate waste facilities exist or are being planned in Finland, France, or any of the countries considering buying the EPR, including the UK, the US, Canada and India. In Finland the plans awaiting approval for burying the nuclear waste are inadequate for preventing interim and long-term health risks and will pass on huge financial liabilities to future generations.

"Nuclear energy is fast becoming the most expensive way to produce electricity and its highly radioactive waste poses an ever-increasing problem. Despite the French government's global marketing of the EPR as cheap and safe, the evidence proves otherwise," stressed Dr. Rianne Teule, Greenpeace International Nuclear Campaigner.

The EPR is designed to extract more energy from nuclear fuel than any commercially operating reactor (high burn-up), in order to maximise electricity output. This causes the amount of readily released radioactive substances in spent fuel to increase disproportionately. The storage of the hazardous waste will be more costly for a range of reasons including required greater distances between canisters increasing the repository size, more extensive and longer-term monitoring and increased security.

Another aspect of the high burn-up of the fuel was published by the British daily Independent on Sunday. The revelations –based also on the documents by the nuclear industry itself – calls into doubt repeated assertions that the new EPRs will be safer than the old nuclear power stations they replace. Instead those documents suggest that a reactor or nuclear waste accident, although less likely to happen, could have even more devastating consequences in future; one study suggests that nearly twice as many people could die.

Information in the documents shows that the EPRs produce very much more of the radioactive isotopes technically known as the "immediate release fraction" of the nuclear waste, because they could get out rapidly after an accident. Data in one report, produced by EDF, suggests that they would produce four times as much radioactive bromine, rubidium, iodine and caesium as a present-day reactor. Information in another – by Posiva Oy – indicates that seven times as much iodine 129 is produced. And material in a third, by the Swiss National Co-operative for the Disposal of Radioactive Waste (Nagra), implies that they will give rise to 11 times as much caesium 135 and 137.

This happens because the reactors are designed to burn their nuclear fuel almost twice as thoroughly as normal ones. Independent nuclear consultant, John Large, says that this "changes the physical characteristics of the fuel" and increases the immediate danger if the radiation should escape. After comparing the consequences of an accident at the new EPR being built at Flamanville, Normandy with one at an existing reactor nearby, he found that, in the worst case, it would increase the number of deaths from 16,000 to over 28,000.

(See also "Too hot to handle: The truth of high burn-up fuel", Nuclear Monitor 671, 17 April 2008)

Sources: Greenpeace Press release, 31 January 2009 / Independent on Sunday, 8 February 2009
Contact: Rianne Teule, Greenpeace International Nuclear Campaigner, Van Walbeeckstraat 17, 1058 CG Amsterdam, The Netherlands

German supreme court strenghtens nuclear opponents' rights

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
​Diet Simon

Germany's supreme court has handed down a ruling that nuclear opponents welcome as strengthening their rights. The group that has resisted nuclear waste dumping at the north German village of Gorleben for 31 years says the ruling, confirming the right of residents along the waste transport routes to litigate against the transports, is a clear reprimand of lower courts.        

The Lüchow-Dannenberg Civic Initiative for the Environment (BI) sees the ruling "strengthening the cause of the nuclear opponents". For years lower administrative courts had refused complainants along the route to Gorleben the right to challenge transport permits issued under nuclear law.        

The supreme court now ruled in favour of two complainants who argued that their constitutional rights were breached because they were refused access to lower courts since 2003. The BI now contends that the judgment proves that "for years a gigantic police apparatus was used to transport nuclear waste to Gorleben on a questionable legal basis".

"We have always demanded that protection of the population must take priority over protection of purely financial interests of the atomic industry," commented a BI spokesman. Moreover, during the last transport (in November) the radiation minimisation regulation was breached because the casks contained substantially more radioactive material and radiated significantly more.

That was why police leaders gave out the order beforehand that police should stay at least 6.5 metres away from a critical danger zone. "But what about the population, houses and plots along the transport route that are knowingly and directly exposed to the high radiation risk?"

The BI spokesman states that breaches of basic rights are regularly and knowingly committed whenever nuclear waste is transported.

On the agenda of breaches to enforce the transports against the interests of the population are the basic right to life and physical integrity (Art. 2), the right to freedom of assembly (Art. 8), the right to privacy of correspondence, posts and telecommunication (Art. 10) and the right to property (Art. 14). And finally, Article 19 assures every citizen: 'Should any person's rights be violated by public authority, he may have recourse to the courts.'

The supreme court said the female plaintiff's right to effective legal protection was violated because the lower court denied her access to appeal in an unacceptable manner. The BI is still waiting for a supreme court ruling on assembly bans along the transport routes.        

In another development, nuclear opponents are furious that the Asse II nuclear dump in an old salt mine that is taking in water, is to be fixed at taxpayers' expense. Some 75% of the radiation of the waste stored in Asse, is coming from nuclear power plants. The companies of those plants -EnBW, Eon, RWE and Vattenfall- are, according to a proposed chance of the German Atomic Law are to be let off the hook. The repairs are to cost billions of euros

Sources:  Diet Simon, email: 30 January 2009 /

In brief

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

German Nuclear Waste Site in Danger of collapsing.
The Federal Office for Radiation Protection (BfS) had learned late last year that pieces of the ceiling of the 750-meter deep chamber were unstable and could collapse on top of the 6,000 radioactive waste drums below. The information about the Asse nuclear waste site  (an old salt mine) was posted discreetly on the radiation office's Web site late Wednesday, January 14. The BfS said it could not rule out damage to the waste containers should the Asse site ceiling collapse, but gave its reassurances that it would reinforce the seals of the chamber with concrete to stop any radioactive dust or air escaping. The office said the measures were only a precaution and that there was no immediate danger posed by the site. It said the waste inside the chamber contained only low-levels of radioactivity. The site has not been used for fresh radioactive storage since 1978, with environmental groups regularly calling for waste there to be removed and stored in a safer location.

Deutsche Welle, 16 January 2009

Brazil to start enriching uranium at Resende. Industriás Nucleares do Brasil (INB) has been issued a temporary licence by the Brazilian Nuclear Energy Commission (CNEN) to start enriching uranium on an industrial scale at its Resende plant.

INB has held an environmental licence to enrich uranium since November 2006, but the plant's operating permit, which is valid for one year, has been now been amended by the CNEN. Production of enriched uranium is expected to begin in February, with some 12 tons of enriched uranium expected to be produced by the end of 2009. The ultra-centrifugation enrichment technology used at the plant was developed by the Naval Technology Centre in Sao Paulo (CTMSP) and the Institute of Energy and Nuclear Research (IPEN). However, the technology is similar to Urenco's technology.

The Resende plant currently has two cascades of centrifuges. The first cascade commenced operation in 2006 and the second was expected to do so in 2008. Stage 1 - eventually to be four modules totalling 115,000 SWU per year and costing US$170 million - was officially opened in 2006. Each module consists of four or five cascades of 5000-6000 SWU per year. It is planned that a further eight cascades are installed by 2012, which will take the capacity to 200,000 SWU. By that time, INB is expected to be able to produce all the enriched uranium used in the Angra 1 reactor and 20% of that used in Angra 2. Those are the country's only operating power units at the moment, although plans to complete Angra 3 are advancing and many more reactors are expected in time.

Up until now, uranium used to fuel Brazil's nuclear power reactors has been sent as uranium concentrate to Cameco in Canada to be converted into uranium hexafluoride (UF6) gas, which has then been sent to Urenco's enrichment plants in Europe. After enrichment, the gas has been returned to Brazil for INB to reconvert the UF6 gas to powder, which is then used to produce nuclear fuel pellets.

World Nuclear News, 14 January 2009

Australia/UK: Plutonium secretly dumped at sea?
Declassified UK Government files show that 500g of plutonium and about 20 kg of radioactive wastes were secretly removed from the 1950s bomb test site at Maralinga in Australia. The UK Government removed the wastes in 1978 and although there is no official record of what happened to it the suggestion in the files is that it was secretly dumped at sea.

N-base Briefing 596, 7 January 2009

Sellafield privatisation: Rushed liabilities deal
Commercial insurance companies refused to consider any policy regarding liabilities for an accident at Sellafield which might be bought in courts outside the UK which were not party to existing liability conventions. Energy minister Mike O'Brien told the House of Commons the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority approached the nuclear insurance market in 2007 when it was preparing the contract for a private company to run Sellafield. The Government and NDA eventually indemnified the private companies chosen to run Sellafield and the Drigg waste facility against any costs arising from an accident - even if it was shown to be the fault of the commercial company.

Meanwhile, documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show the lengths ministers and civil servants took to prevent MPs from having the opportunity to discuss the decision to make the contract for running Sellafield more financially attractive to private companies. The Government agreed to take over responsibility for the costs of any accidents at Sellafield after the preferred bidders, Nuclear Management Partners, said it would not sign the contract unless it was indemnified against all costs. Ministers abandoned normal procedures to ensure that by the time MPs learned of the arrangements it would be too late to make any changes.

N-base Briefing 596 & 597, 7 & 14 January 2009

Turkey: AtomStroyExport revises bid.
A consortium led by Russia's AtomStroyExport submitted a revised bid for the tender to build Turkey's first nuclear power plant minutes after the contents of its initial bid were announced. At 21.16 cents per kWh, the initial bid submitted by the consortium is nearly triple the current Turkish average wholesale electricity price of 7.9 cents per kWh. Turkish energy minister Hilmi Guller told a press conference that AtomStroyExport had submitted a revised price "linked to world economic developments". Although it would be unorthodox for a bid to be revised once submitted in the tender process, AtomStroyExport's is the only bid on the table and Guller suggested that there would be room for bargaining. The revised bid would be opened and assessed by Turkish state electricity company TETAS who would assess it before passing it on to the country's cabinet for approval. No details of the revised bid have been released.

Turkish plans call for the country's first nuclear power plant to be operational by 2014, with proposals for 10-12 reactors by 2020 but would-be reactor builders appear to be treading carefully. Although six parties participated in the tendering process for the country's first nuclear reactor, AtomStroyExport's consortium was the only one actually to submit a bid.

World Nuclear news, 20 January 2009

Australia : no nukes to cut carbon emissions.
The Australian government  will not choose for nuclear power to help tackle climate change. The Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering - representing engineers and scientists – urged to do so in a report, calling the government to spend A$6 billion on researching ways to slash the carbon emissions from electricity generation. The academy's report says no single technology will solve climate change, and takes a look at everything from nuclear power to clean coal and renewable energy.
Federal Energy Minister Martin Ferguson responded by saying the government was committed to meeting its greenhouse gas reduction targets without turning to nuclear power. "It is the government's view that nuclear power is not needed as part of Australia's energy mix given our country's abundance and diversity of low-cost renewable energy sources," he said. "The government has a clear policy of prohibiting the development of an Australian nuclear power industry." The report's author Dr John Burgess said he was not disappointed by the minister's comments on nuclear power. "I guess what we're slightly concerned about is that without nuclear energy the other technologies have to work," Dr Burgess said.

The statement is important as the world is starting to prepare for the crucial Climate talks in Copenhagen, Denmark, December this year. If nuclear power will not get the support of major players (ie. financial state aid, subsidies via post-Kyoto flexible mechanisms as CDM and the Carbon Trade schemes) it will be considered and received as a major knock-out to the nuclear industry.

Business Spectator, 16 January 2009

Russian economic crisis decreases nuclear safety.
The nuclear industry in Russia is being negatively affected by the countries economic crisis; and the situation is expected to worsen in 2009. This is according to a recently released annual report by the states nuclear regulatory body. Ongoing job cuts at nuclear facilities include the personnel directly responsible for safety control. Activists call on the Russian government to quickly adopt a plan to insure public safety and nuclear security. The deteriorating social and economic situation in Russia is likely to result in significant drop of nuclear safety' level at many nuclear facilities. Some nuclear facilities have already seen jobs cut because of reduced national income due to declining oil prices and the global recession.  It is possible that further cut jobs in Russians and may bring back the nuclear proliferation problems related to illegal trade of radioactive materials. These radioactive materials can be used for building a "dirty bomb". According to governmental report, obtained by Ecodefense, staff cuts have been underway since 2007.

According to the recently released annual report written by the Russian nuclear regulator, Rostekhnadzor,  there have been "job cuts at facilities responsible for nuclear-fuel cycle of personnel responsible for safety control and maintenance". The report also criticises nuclear facilities management for "not paying enough attention to ensuring nuclear safety". In a disturbing criticism of iteself, Rostekhnadzor reports that it doesn't have enough safety inspectors to do it's own job properly.

Press release Ecodefense, 23 December 2008


Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(June 21, 2007) The UK Government and the Welsh and Northern Ireland administrations launched a new consultation on 'Managing Radioactive Waste Safely: A framework for implementing geological disposal'. However the Scottish Executive has refused to take part, arguing that it rejects building a deep underground waste repository.

NENIG - The UK Government says the consultation is based on the recommendations of the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM) for a deep repository - however critics say the Government is ignoring CoRWM's reservations about a repository, its call for much greater research, for consideration of interim storage and its statements that it was only considering the management of existing wastes, not wastes from any new reactors.
The consultation also looks at the concept of 'voluntarism' - where communities express an interest in housing a possible repository rather than having on forced upon them - and the technical aspects of developing an underground repository. The details of a possible repository given in the consultation documents are very similar to those produced by Nirex in the 1990s for Sellafield.

Scottish Executive says no
The Scottish Executive has refused to take part in the consultation - rejecting any idea of a deep underground repository in Scotland. Environment secretary Richard Lochhead said he recognized the challenge of dealing with radioactive waste but they did not accept "that geological disposal is the right way forward. This is a matter of principle for us and I have no doubt that public opinion in Scotland supports our view." He said they supported CoRWM's recommendations for interim storage and further research on long-term waste management. "This out of sight out of mind policy should not extend to Scotland." Mr Lochhead said the executive would work with the UK government and other devolved administrations on waste management issues where they had shared objectives. The LibDem environment spokesman, Mike Rumbles, commented that the executive now had "a duty to tell the people of Scotland what proposals they have for dealing with Scotland's share of the nuclear waste burden."

Cumbria says 'no' to Scottish wastes
Following the Scottish Executive's withdrawal from the consultation Cumbria County Councillors have said they will oppose taking Scottish radioactive wastes to Sellafield. The Hunterston and Torness reactors send spent fuel to Sellafield for reprocessing and while Dounreay manages its own wastes, there are proposals to send spent fuel from the site to Sellafield. Timothy Heslop, executive member on the county council for nuclear issues, said the Scottish Executive had taken its stand and "let them accept that their waste is not coming across the border."
Although it has agreed to take part in the consultation the Welsh administration in Cardiff made it clear they have not agreed in any way to a repository being build in Wales.
The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority welcomed the Government's consultation and noted the response from the Scottish Government. The NDA said it would have to "carefully consider" this news.

No choices yetEnvironment minister Ian Pearson this week denied that Sellafield had already been chosen by the Government as the site for a deep underground waste repository. Mr Pearson said they had not started the site selection process and still needed to decide how site selection will be made.
The Nuclear Free Local Authorities gave a cautious welcome to the consultation. NFLA chair Mike Rumney said the Government's plan for new reactors was driving the timetable for radioactive waste management and this could lead to a loss of public confidence. The inspector on the 1995 planning inquiry into Nirex plans for a deep repository at Sellafield has said the site is unsuitable for such a development. Mr Chris McDonald said the site selection process at the time was flawed, not taking safety as the most important factor and the irrational desire to build a repository as close as possible to Sellafield. The site is not suitable for a repository "and investigations should be moved elsewhere".

Full details of the consultation, that ends on 2nd November 2007, are available at:

Source: N-Base Briefing 532, 1 July 2007
Contact: NENIG, The Quarries, Gruting, Bridge of Walls, Shetland ZE2 9NR, UK
Tel: +44 1595 810266



No decision yet on nuclear power, but go-ahead to 4 nuclear reactor designs.

The U.K. government Thursday gave the preliminary go-ahead to the design of four nuclear reactors, even though it has yet to decide whether to formally support nuclear power. Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., Areva, GE Energy, and Westinghouse Electric Co. have all submitted individual designs for the four reactors. Before the generic designs of the nuclear power plants are completely approved or pre- licensed, the government's new Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, established by new Prime Minister Gordon Brown, must consider the designs more carefully.
The initial stages of pre-licensing are taking place at the same time and are subject to the outcome of a nuclear consultation, which is expected to close in October. The U.K. government previously gave its support for nuclear power after a public consultation, and claimed new nuclear reactors were needed in order to meet the U.K.'s climate change objectives, while at the same time securing reliable energy supplies. But the government had to launch a further consultation after environmental group Greenpeace won a legal challenge in February which found that the government's initial consultation was "legally flawed".
Dow Jones, 5 July 2007


Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(December 15, 2006) The French government announced on November 24, an agreement with the Italian government on the transport of Italian highly radioactive nuclear waste to the French reprocessing plant at La Hague, where weapons-usable plutonium will be extracted. Italy will use France as a nuclear dump site because it has no storage facilities to take back the reprocessing waste.

(650.5774) Laka Foundation - The Italian nuclear waste was generated in its nuclear power plants, the last of which was closed in 1990, following the referendum of 1987, one year after the Chernobyl accident. In total, some 235 tonnes of so-called spent nuclear fuel are stored in Italy. The Italian government now intends to dispose off the waste by sending it to France, which has already received thousands of tonnes of such waste from Germany, Japan, Belgium, Netherlands and Switzerland.

The purpose of the framework agreement which was signed is to commit the Italian government to take back the large volumes of wastes generated by reprocessing between 2020 and 2025, thereby allowing Italy to use La Hague for interim storage of its waste. But Italy might not be able to honour this future commitment because Italy has no clear plans to build facilities to store reprocessing wastes,. In November 2003 a site at Scanzano (southern Italy) is chosen for the construction of a nuclear waste dump but in December 2003 the Italian government cancels the plan after massive public opposition. Any future contract signed between the Italian waste company SOGIN and the French reprocessing company Areva therefore threatens to become a de-facto dumping contract.

An important issue is that under the new France waste law, storing the Italian waste till 2025 is not illegal any more. In the 1994 law, it was required to return the reprocessing wastes as soon as technically feasible, which is clearly before 2025. Now, under the new law its simply said that there needs to be a bilateral agreement in which the government sending the spent fuel commits to take back the waste within the timeframe which is agreed. That's much weaker of course. Thus this is a very crucial agreement, the first after the new law came into force and it immediately proves to what extent the new law weakens the old one. Greenpeace France obtained major legal victories using the old law. Reaction of this right-wing France government: just change the law to allow France to remain an international dump site.

The 235 tonnes of Italian fuel has to be handed over from the beginning of 2007 to half-way through 2012. The waste will then be returned to Italy from January 2020 to December 2025. Italy will begin work on selecting a site for a geologic repository for the waste in 2009, with the final site selection being made in 2012.

In 1980 Italy signed a reprocessing contract with BNFL (UK) for 53 tonnes of spent nuclear fuel from the Garigliano reactor. The first transport took place 23 year later, in April 2003, and the thirteenth and last in February 2005 (and was blocked by Greenpeace).

Sources: WNA News Briefing, 22-26 November 2006 / Greenpeace France, Press release, 25 November 2006 /
Contact: Greenpeace France, Yannick Rousselet, 22, rue des Rasselins, 75020 Paris, France.


Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

North Korea had three nuclear bombs.

(April 16, 2004) The New York Times has reported that A Q Khan, the disgraced father of Pakistan's nuclear weapons programs, has revealed to investigators that he saw three nuclear bombs in North Korea five years ago. Pakistan's government is said to have released details of Khan's visit to an underground weapons facility one hour from Pyongyang 3-4 weeks ago as a warning to states within its missile range. The leaking of such sensitive information in Washington appears linked to US Vice-President Dick Cheney's visit to Beijing where he hopes to persuade China to take a tougher stance on North Korea. The Bush administration had previously been frustrated by Beijing's reluctance to apply more pressure on its former ally. Cheney has presented the Chinese with its 'new evidence' but has insisted that the US is still committed to six-party talks but would soon be seeking "real results". (See also WISE/NIRS Nuclear Monitor 602.5572 "North Korea welcomes US delegation")

There are suggestions that Washington may also be seeking to influence the 15 April parliamentary elections in South Korea that are expected to decide the fate of President Roh Moo-hyun, who is mistrusted by the US for his soft line on Pyongyang. Khan's report will be difficult to verify given that Pakistani authorities have refused to allow questioning by the international community. It is also unclear if Khan, who is not a trained nuclear scientist, has the expertise to recognize an actual nuclear weapon as opposed to a mock-up.
The New York Times, 13 & 14 April 2004; The Guardian, 14 April 2004


NIRS & Public Citizen petition NRC.


(April 16, 2004) NIRS and Public Citizen have jointly petitioned the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to participate in the forthcoming licensing procedure for the proposed uranium enrichment plant in New Mexico. The groups are representing their members living near the site of the proposed facility who are concerned with the inconsistencies, misrepresentations and unlawful aspects of the application, including the lack of a strategy to dispose of hazardous and radioactive wastes. NIRS and Public Citizen also cited problems with the application in its treatment of water resources, national security and nuclear proliferation, the need for the facility and the cost of decommissioning the plant once it ceases operating. This is the third attempt by Louisiana Energy Services (LES) at securing a site for its nuclear plant - earlier attempts were withdrawn following intense public opposition.
Joint NIRS, Public Citizen & Southwest Research Information Center News Release, 6 April 2004


French PM pro new nukes.


(April 16, 2004) Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin confirmed his support for the construction of new nuclear power plants on 5 April. He told parliament that France should build the experimental 1600 MWe European Pressurized Water Reactor (EPR), claiming it was 'our responsibility to ensure the future of the nuclear option' and that he would request a parliamentary debate on the issue 'within the coming weeks'.
WNA News Briefing, 7-13 April 2004


Russian researcher sentenced.


(April 16, 2004) A weapons specialist for the prestigious USA-Canada Institute has been sentenced to 15 years imprisonment for espionage in a closed trial in Moscow. Igor Sutyagin was convicted of supplying an UK firm, allegedly used as a front for the CIA, with information on submarines and missile warning systems. Sutyagin's defense argued that the researcher's work had been based on publicly available sources and that he had had no indication that the company was as intelligence cover. Human rights activists in Russia and around the world have condemned the verdict and there are reports suggesting irregularities during the trial and political motivation for the trial and conviction. The trail judge is said to have given the jury incorrect instruction by asking them to determine whether Sutyagin had passed on information, which he did not deny, rather than whether he had passed on state secrets.
AP, 5 April 2004; BBC News 7 April 2004


Fund for sick nuclear worker not paying out.


(April 16, 2004) Four years after the US Congress passed a law to aid sick nuclear plant workers, the compensation fund has only managed to process the claim of one worker who was sent a check for US$ 15,000 despite the government earmarking US$74 million for the program. The Energy Department, responsible for the program, claimed during a hearing before the Senate Energy Committee that it would require more time and money to do a better job. Approximately 22,000 eligible workers filed for assistance yet only 372 have received feedback on their applications. Robert Card, the department's undersecretary said the agency needed an another US$ 33 million, in addition to the US$ 26 million already spent on the program this year to speed up the programs pace. Card and his assistant Beverly Cook have since resigned from their posts. Some lawmakers have recommended moving the program to the Labor Department, which already runs a program for compensating workers affected by radiation exposure.
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 30 March & 2 April 2004


UK government advisers consider waste disposal options.


(April 16, 2004) Last year the Blair government appointed a committee on radioactive waste management to re-examine all possibilities to find an acceptable solution to the nuclear waste problem. The 14 options considered range from firing nuclear waste into the sun, placing it in Antarctic ice sheets so it sinks by its own heat to the bedrock, putting it under the Earth's crust so it is sucked to the molten core and burying under the seabed. The government estimates that its stockpile of high-level nuclear waste will soon reach 500,000 tons. The committee of Homer Simpson wannabes is apparently still considering all 14 options and has requested an extension of its deadline from end 2005 to mid 2006. We look forward to reading its final report.
The Guardian, 14 April 2004


Nuclear industry looks to Asia for survival.


(April 16, 2004) 18 of the 31 nuclear power units currently under construction worldwide are located in Asia making the continent a haven for predatory European, North American and Russian suppliers. Following accidents at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, the number of new nuclear projects under development in the West was drastically reduced leaving the industry in peril. Now, the vultures are circling around Asia seeking new ground on an energy-poor continent. China is expected to build four 1,000 MW plants at a cost of US$ 6 billion as part of its drive to quadruple its nuclear capacity by 2020. The export of such sensitive technologies is prohibited in most nuclear supply countries but given the lack of business elsewhere, governments are re-evaluating their policies in order to secure lucrative contracts for their supplies. Even the U.S. is expected to ease its controls on China at this year and Germany is already considering selling China its Hanau plant.
AP, 10 April 2004; Reuters, 13 April 2004