You are here


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.