U.S. plutonium immobilization program stopped.
(February 1, 2002) Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham has officially announced that the U.S. now plans to dispose of its surplus weapons-grade plutonium by turning it into MOX. In 2000, when Russia and the U.S. agreed each to dispose of 34 tonnes of plutonium, the U.S. planned to convert 25.6 tonnes into MOX and immobilize the rest (see WISE News Communique 534.5201, "Fischer allows export of German MOX plant to Russia"). The Bush administration has now officially rejected the immobilization option. However, the US cannot proceed with the MOX option until Russia does so, and the Russian program is stalled (see WISE News Communique 553.5311, "Hanau MOX plant to be scrapped, not exported"). WNA News Briefing, 23-29 January 2002
Terrorist threat to U.S. nuclear installations.
(February 1, 2002) President Bush said in his "State of the Union" address on 29 January that "diagrams of American nuclear power plants" were found at terrorist bases in Afghanistan. The Washington Times reported on 31 January that U.S. intelligence agencies have recently issued an internal alert that Islamic terrorists were planning to attack a U.S. nuclear installation. www.whitehouse.gov; The Washington Times, 31 January 2002
US license renewal: Hatch, Duke.
(February 1, 2002) The two-reactor Hatch nuclear power station in the US state of Georgia has received approval for a 20-year license extension, making it the first BWR plant to receive lifetime extension approval. However, NIRS has succeeded in getting a legal hearing to assess whether MOX use must be considered in the renewal of licences for Duke Energy's Catawba 1 & 2 in South Carolina and McGuire 1 & 2 in North Carolina. Mary Olson of NIRS Southeast said, "This is a milestone in our effort to stop the commercialization of bomb plutonium as a fuel". Georgians for Clean Energy, 10 January 2002; NIRS, 29 January 2002
Austrian government survives Temelin referendum.
(February 1, 2002) The Austrian extreme right-wing FPÖ (Freedom Party) declared after the outcome of the non-binding referendum that the goal remains "definitive closure of Temelin" ...but that they are no longer "against admission into the EU" (of the Czech Republic). 15% of the Austrian population supported the petition, which calls for an Austrian veto of Czech membership of the European Union unless Temelin is closed (see WISE News Communique 559.5350, "Temelin agreement: Austrian government coalition remains divided"). The somewhat surprising FPÖ statement came after the Austrian Chancellor Schuessel said the government will closely watch the implementation by Prague of the agreement reached last year in Brussels. The political crisis which several observers expected to blow apart the Austrian coalition government ended with the FPÖ statement, while at the same time Czech authorities declared that the second unit at Temelin will be loaded with fuel in the period between 24 January and 7 February. RFE/RL newsline, January 25, 2002