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Then and Now

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Special: The magazine of hope

In News Communique 1 (May 1978) we wrote:

(October 16, 1998) Malville: hard times. In the summer of 1976 the first major demonstration against the Superphénix's 1200-MW fast breeder reactor at Creys-Malville took place. The site occupation was met by police violence. But protests increased, locally, nationally and internationally.
On July 31, 1977, about 60,000 people from all over Europe marched against Superphénix. This demonstration met a disastrous end. Because of police violence one protesters was killed, two were seriously mutilated, and another one hundred got wounded.

How it is now:
Resistance never became as massive as then, but remained very active on different levels. And with success!
On July 31, 1997, a commemoration was held for the demonstration of 1977, and to honor Vital Michalon, who died in that demonstration by police violence. At that commemoration there was something to celebrate; although it was not official, Superphénix would not be restarted!
On February 2, 1998 the French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin reaffirmed the shutdown of Superphénix. Costs of dismantling are estimated on FF16.5 billion (US$2.5 billion).
After the dismantling operation, the total outcome of electricity balance of Superphénix could result in a minus, as it could have consumed more electricity than it actually produced.
Superphénix went into operation in 1986, was plagued by many accidents and only operated for an equivalent of 278 days full power during those 11 years. Total costs (excluding closure costs): US$10 billion.


In News Communique 100 (July 1981) we wrote:

Police violence stops construction of anti-nuclear village at Kalkar. People planned to build a summer anti-nuclear village near the construction site of the fast breeder reactor at Kalkar (Germany). Plans, however, had to be postponed because the police kept confiscating their building materials. Twelve protesters were injured by police attacks during those days. In total, 800 activists participated in the festival.
Construction of the 282-MW sodium-cooled fast breeder in Kalkar began in 1973 as a project of West Germany (72%), Netherlands and Belgium (both 14%).
In 1977, 50,000 people demonstrated against the fast breeder project. In 1980, activists opened a Friendship House in a farmer's barn near the reactor site. The house has since been used as the protest's information center and meeting place.

How it is now:
In 1995 the Dutch businessman Henny van der Most bought the DM10 billion (US$5 billion) ruins of Kalkar for about DM5 million (although the exact figure was never disclosed) as he planned to rebuild it into a water-theme park. Reconstruction began in 1996. Once reconstruction work is finished, people will be able to climb the cooling tower and to dive in the reactor core, and lots more; fun, fun, fun!
The decision to scrap the Kalkar project was made in 1991 after construction had been finished five years earlier. It could never begin operation because the government of Northrhein-Westfalia refused the last license. The reasons why the German federal government finally cancelled the whole project are obvious. Because construction took such a long time, much of the technical and safety standards had been outdated. In addition the costs for maintenance and surveillance were very expensive: about US$70 million a year.
Kalkar had been one of the main focal points of resistance against nuclear power in Germany during the 70s and 80s.


In WISE News Communique 200 (January 1984) we wrote:

Representatives of five European countries signed an accord in Paris, January 10, that provides for "long-term cooperation" in the development of fast breeder reactors. The agreement commits the five countries - France, Belgium, West Germany, Italy and Britain-- to "harmonize" breeder research and development activities.

How it is now:
The EFR, European Fastbreeder Reactor, as the project was baptized, has since long ceased to exist.
The 1984 agreement was never formalized and replaced by an agreement signed in February 1989 by Britain, West Germany and France. Belgium and Italy quit at the last moment. The agreement was to built a 1500-MW FBR. In 1994 a decision should have been made about the location and construction should have started in 1997. Scheduled start of operation was 2005.
In November 1992 Britain gave a severe blow to the project when it announced it saw no future for fast breeders, it stopped funding its national breeder plan and they would no longer take part in the EFR. That was the end, not much has been heard of the European Fastbreeder Reactor: the project ceased to exist.

In News Communique 200 (January 1984) we wrote:

At least one of the two Kraftwerk Union (KWU) nuclear units in Iran may be completed after all. KWU has received a request from the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran to investigate finishing construction of the first unit at the Bushehr station. Some 70% of the 1,300-MW unit was completed in August 1979, when KWU abandoned the project.

How it is now:
KWU, which started work on the first unit in 1974, was not willing to take the risk. However, in December 1994 Russia signed a US$800- million deal with Iran to complete the first Bushehr reactor "within the next four years".
China was also named to have signed a contract for building two 300-MW reactors in Iran. These plans evoked fear, especially on the part of the US, which worried that Iran would try to develop an atomic bomb. In September 1995 Beijing terminated its agreement with Iran after three years of bitter debate with Washington. According to Chinese government officials, this decision had nothing to do with US pressure. They said that it had been due purely to Iran's problems to finance the deal and to its location which, according to them, is too close to Iraq.
US and also Israel are still criticizing Russia because of its ties with Iran, a country the US considers a rouge state that sponsors terrorism. They are accusing Moscow of selling technology that could be used to develop nuclear weapons.
Russia denies the charge.
In July 1997, Iran claimed it would soon start operating the first Bushehr unit. But the plant is still not finished and the likely startup date is 2003, according to the World Nuclear Industry Handbook.


In News Communique 300 (October 1988) we wrote:

A nuclear power plant in every town?
In 1988 German authorities and industry tried to obtain a non-site specific license for the building of a High Temperature Reactor. Different worldwide companies were developing plans for the HTR. In Germany, Siemensþ daughter Interatom had a design for the small "HTR-Modul" that, according to them, could be built near industries, towns or in developing countries. Industry expectations were high.

How it is now:
Nowadays there are very few perspectives for building HTRs and research has ceased in most countries. The German prototype-HTR in Jülich closed in 1988, followed by the closure of the 300-MW Thorium-HTR in Hamm-Uentrop in 1989. This reactor only worked for about eight days and was closed due to technical (leakages) and economic reasons. Finally Siemens cancelled its HTR program after spending some DM2 billion (US$1.1 billion) on it. Research results were sold to China. In the US the Fort St. Vrain reactor was already shut down in 1989 after serious safety problems. In 1995 the US House of Representatives stopped further funding of the General Atomics research program. The same year the IAEA stated in a paper on new "inherently safe" reactors: "...A number of prototype or demonstration plants have been built, but without complete success in operation." In the Netherlands, where the Energy Research Center has had a very small HTR research project, government funding stopped in 1996.
Despite the little prospects for the design some countries are continuing their research. In Japan recently a research reactor went critical. China is building one and South Africa's electricity company Eskom hopes to open its first HTR in 2003. From the commercial point of view, the perspectives for the HTR are negative. According to a Dutch study, the HTR would only be compatible when gas prices double, and only in one specific design and only in serial production.


In WISE News Communique 400 (October 1993) we wrote:

French HLW Programm takes on US Accent. Christian Bataille, France's nuclear waste negotiator, toured the country in early October talking to local officials at about two dozen sites about accepting the construction of underground labs for research into storage of High Level Waste (HLW). He could offer them FF60 million (US$9 million) per year in aid should they accept the labs. This money was meant to avoid the vigorous protests in 1989 and 1990 when similar proposals for geological repositories were made. In 1991 Christian Bataille was chosen as France's nuclear waste negotiator. He wrote a report on waste storage in 1990, the Bataille Report, on which the 1991 nuclear waste law was based.

How it is now:
A three-road approach for waste research was chosen in 1993:

  1. Separation and transmutation of HLW,
  2. Underground storage research of HLW through building two or three underground research laboratories to investigate which rock formation is most fit for storage of vitrified HLW, and
  3. Aboveground storage of HLW.

Then by 2006, enough data should be available to make a decision on a HLW repository.
Big chances in French waste policy have taken place since in 1997 the new Jospin government was installed. The former approach has been maintained by and large, but funding changed directions.
More money has gone into research after long-term aboveground storage of high-level waste and sub-surface storage, less into enhanced separation and transmutation and underground storage.
New is the notion that not all spent nuclear fuel will be reprocessed but that an important part of it will also be stored, first aboveground, later underground. A completely new issue is the requirement of retrievability of buried waste, which will enhance costs.
The same Mr. Bataille issued a new report in June 1998 to the parliament. He says he regrets the former undemocratic way of decision-making and pleaded for more transparency. But he still insists that the solution for the large plutonium stocks is "burning" it as MOX.