April 2000

European nuclear safety row deepens

ENDS Daily, March 31, 2000

[Posted 03/04/2000]

The chairman of troubled UK nuclear services firm BNFL yesterday admitted that the Sellafield site might have to "look at the unthinkable" and stop reprocessing spent nuclear fuel rods into new fuel. Hugh Collum was speaking to a parliamentary committee in London a day after the UK government announced officially that it was abandoning plans to partially privatise BNFL before 2002 at the earliest.

Pressure on the firm has escalated since last month's official criticisms of safety management at Sellafield (ENDS Daily 18 February). Last week, Denmark called on parties to the Ospar convention on protection of the north-east Atlantic to agree a ban on nuclear reprocessing when they meet in June (ENDS Daily 24 March). Ireland joined Denmark on Monday (ENDS Daily 28 March).

Greenpeace today piled on further pressure, releasing draft text of a forthcoming OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) review of nuclear waste management options. Denmark based its call for a reprocessing ban in part on a draft conclusion in the report that radioactive discharges would be lower if waste was stored rather than reprocessed.

The NGO today said it was a "scandal" that the report had been "delayed and kept hidden" for so long. An Ospar official told ENDS Daily that the report would almost certainly be discussed at the late June meeting. The NEA confirmed that it was due to be released officially in late May or early June.

* In a related development, French nuclear services firm Cogema is facing allegations of flaws in safety records for fuel pellets similar to those that have beset BNFL. The German environment ministry yesterday ordered safety checks on mixed oxide (Mox) fuel made at Cogema's Cadarache plant in southern France after it emerged that "software problems" had led to gaps in records. Cogema stressed that the problem affected only repeat and not primary checks on pellets, and had not affected safety.

BNFL at http://www.bnfl.com, tel: +44 1925 83 20 00
Greenpeace at http://www.greenpeace.org, tel: +31 20 523 6222
and leaked draft of OECD NEA report at the adress: http://www.greenpeace.org/~odumping
Cogema at http://www.cogema.fr, tel: +33 1 39 26 30 00

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