Second quarter of 2001

No parliamentary inquiry into "problems of application of the law" at La Hague

France's National Assembly has rejected a draft resolution to create a Parliamentary Committee of Inquiry to examine the practice of storage of nuclear materials at La Hague without authorization for their reprocessing.

WISE-Paris, 7 May 2001

[Posted 28/05/2001]

On 24 April 2001, the National Assembly's Production and Trade Commission (Commission de la production et des échanges) responsible for nuclear-related affairs, considered inadmissible the draft resolution N°2937 ( — tabled on 12 March 2001 by Mr Noël Mamère, member for the Gironde region Green Party (Vert de Gironde) — for the creation of a Parliamentary Commission to investigate "the existence and storage of non-reprocessable nuclear waste at the La Hague plant".

The proposal was based on "new facts" about the storage of nuclear materials without authorization for reprocessing at La Hague: "bad MOX" from Hanau (revealed by WISE-Paris on 14 February 2001: 'WISE-Paris/Plutonium Investigation uncovers " secret " shipments of German plutonium waste to La Hague') and irradiated MOX from Germany (the object of legal action by the CRILAN association on 6 March 2001, rejected on 20 March 2001: 'CRILAN request for injunction rejected on formal grounds'). According to the authors of the proposal, these practices constitute "ecological misdemeanors" contravening Law N° 91-1381 of 30 December 1991 which forbids storage in France of waste from abroad "beyond the period required for the technical aspects of reprocessing."

Subsequent to tabling of this proposal, a similar problem, raised by Greenpeace in its running legal battle with COGEMA since 13 March 2001, over the importation of Australian irradiated fuels from ANSTO ('Sensational Court Ruling'), was totally ignored by the Commission.

The report for the Parliamentary Commission on the proposed resolution ( terms its admissibility as "highly uncertain", as the principle of "separate powers" precludes submission of a proposed resolution for the creation of a committee of inquiry concomitantly with an existing judicial inquiry. Ms Marylise Lebranchu, Minister of Justice, in two letters to the Chairman of the National Assembly (30 March and 11 April 2001), affirmed that "the pending inquiry by the Cherbourg county court into improper storage of nuclear fuels endangering the safety of others", in the wake of actions brought, according to the report, on 31 December 1993 and 12 May 1997, (1) "covers the facts relative to imports of MOX fuel from Germany prior to November 1998" and thus encompasses the "facts concerning the import mentioned in the proposed resolution."

Mr Maxime Bono, Socialist member and rapporteur for the proposal submitted to the Commission, and its Chair André Lajoinie, a Communist member, nevertheless expressed the view that it is "very frustrating" to be limited to mere matters of form on a subject "which arouses such strong feelings": sheltered by the problem of admissibility, the Commission was thus able to debate the appropriateness of the proposal from Mr Mamère and his ecologist colleagues free of risk.

According to the report, "the problems raised by Mr Mamère are primarily ‘legislative’ in nature and relate to the application of the Law of 1991". Mr Bono recalled that Mr Christian Bataille, rapporteur for the law, declared in an interview with Le Monde, on 7 March 2001, that this text "did not envisage cases of fuels that would wait for an extended period before reprocessing", and that the "spirit of the law is ignored in practice". For Mr Bono, who "refuses to consider the bad MOX imported from Hanau as nuclear waste", this — to further complicate things — is beyond the scope of the 1991 law.

In these conditions, the Commission rejected the idea of a Committee of Inquiry, while proposing other ways of dealing with the problems that it nevertheless accepts as being real:

  • first, it points out the necessity to revise the 1991 law including "a provision for penalties in case of storage of foreign nuclear waste and wider discussion of the questions relating to pursuing reprocessing and the place of MOX in our nuclear energy system." It proposes that these points should be dealt with by policy legislation on energy which can — under Law N° 2000-108 of 10 February 2000 on the modernization and development of electricity supply as a public service — be presented to Parliament before 31 December 2002;

  • second, it considers that there is already room for debate on the technical aspects of reprocessing and MOX within the parliamentary office for scientific and technological orientations (OPECST - Office parlementaire d'évaluation des choix scientifiques et technologiques). This office is, in fact, preparing a report on the "management of non-reprocessed irradiated fuels", for which the rapporteur is Christian Bataille. In this context, Mr Bono refers to the public debates of 3 May 2001 at the National Assembly. Mr Bataille's report, which could put forward proposals for the amendment of the legislative framework, is expected in May 2001.


  1. It was in fact in January 1994 that an action against "person or persons unknown" was brought by the CRILAN and by Mr Didier Anger. Re-centered at the end of 1995 to focus on the illegal storage of foreign waste, it was completed in May 1997 by an additional action by Mr Anger for endangering the safety of others, under the relevant law of 1996

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