Third quarter of 2001

European MPs Protest German Policy on MOX Fabrication

WISE-Paris, 9 July 2001

[Posted 10/07/2001]

Nine Members of the European Parliament from five countries have protested in an open letter to German Federal Minister for the Environment, Jürgen Trittin, against the terms of the draft bill on the revision of the German Nuclear Law. The wording contained in the draft bill from June 2001 would force utilities to use separated plutonium in the form of MOX fuel. The MEPs wonder "Why does Germany not support the plutonium immobilisation rather than MOX strategy for separated plutonium — as it does for Russian weapons plutonium - along with a conditioning strategy for spent fuel (...)?."

Plutonium Investigation publishes the entire letter of the MEPs, all members of the Green Group, in its entirety hereunder.

An open letter to Jürgen Trittin German Environment Minister

Subject: German Nuclear Phase-out

Minister Jürgen Trittin
Federal Minister of Environment, Nature Protection and Reactor Safety (BMU)
Alexanderplatz 6
10178 Berlin
Strasbourg 4 th July 2001

Dear Minister Trittin,

It is very welcome that Germany is phasing out nuclear power which is a great step forward for both Germany and the EU. However the draft bill for the revision of the atomic law specifies that the separated plutonium recovered from reprocessing must be used as a nuclear fuel for the purposes of the commercial generation of electricity.

This would mean not only that Germany's atom law allows for the shipment of spent fuel to reprocessing plants in Cap La Hague and Sellafield until July 2005 - it does not put any deadline to the reprocessing as such - but also that plutonium must be returned to Germany in the form of plutonium bearing MOX fuel for use in reactors. Since Germany does neither operate a reprocessing plant nor a MOX fabrication facility, such a legal situation would put an additional risk burden on the populations of other European countries.

I want to make it very clear that this is not the policy of Greens in other Member States of the European Union and particularly in the UK, France and Ireland where Greens have made opposing reprocessing our highest political priority. If Germany were now to allow for continued reprocessing AND give BNFL the support on their economic case they are desperate to get in order to secure permission to open the Sellafield MOX plant, this would amount to the betrayal of the environmental concerns we all share as Greens. Greens in France including minister Voynet have targeted reprocessing as dangerous and uneconomic and have blocked the capacity increase of the MOX fabrication facility MELOX at Marcoule.

I want to make it absolutely clear that we do not oppose the principle that Germany takes back nuclear waste from German power plants. This is of course a fundamental plank of sustainability and you must be congratulated for stating this principle so clearly. But why do you want nuclear waste returned in the form of MOX fuel? To take back separated plutonium from German utilities at Sellafield as MOX fuel, which is highly dangerous, is not an environmentally safe option.

It is of course true that no-one wants to either store nuclear waste or see it used as a nuclear fuel near them which just points once again to the whole madness of the nuclear entrapment which you are seeking to escape from and of course is the reason why Germany needs to phase-out nuclear power.

You have informed power utilities in Germany you wanted "proof that they have firm contracts to process all separated plutonium into MOX before the remaining spent fuel in Germany may be shipped off to France and the U.K., in the five years before reprocessing of German spent fuel is legally banned". You also require that "utilities will provide an annual statement showing binding commercial MOX fabrication agreements, plus licenses for loading the MOX in their reactors, to validate their scheduled shipments of spent fuel to foreign reprocessing sites through mid-2005." However, the Sellafield and La Hague reprocessing plant do not conform to German legal requirements in any case - as shown in a study that you have commissioned yourself (1) - so these proposals would, in fact, be technically illegal.

It would be technically possible, and on environmental and non-proliferation grounds most sensible, for German utilities to have their already separated plutonium conditioned and packaged as waste at Sellafield. (2) Why does Germany not support the plutonium immobilisation rather than MOX strategy for separated plutonium - as it does for Russian weapons plutonium - along with a conditioning strategy for spent fuel already in store at Sellafield? This is a win-win deal: it will remove plutonium from commerce and it will provide productive work for BNFL to replace its contracted reprocessing and MOX production agreements with German utilities. Such a strategy would avoid BNFL trying to legally pressurise German utilities to reprocess spent fuel already sent to Sellafield.

It is quite unbelievable that in the process of agreeing the German Nuclear phase-out you have embarked on a Faustian pact in which you have traded the German phase out in exchange for sustaining reprocessing and MOX production at Sellafield. Just when British Nuclear Fuels Ltd (BNFL) is reeling from blows on all sides, particularly from the Japanese decision not to renew contracts following the falsification of safety data at Sellafield, the German Greens in the person of yourself are specifying that nuclear fuel shipped to Sellafield from Germany must be returned as MOX fuel, thus handing them the only lifeline that BNFL under its current strategy can hang on to.

Best wishes,

Nuala Ahern MEP, Vice Chair European Parliament Committee on Industry, Trade, Research and Energy.
Danielle Auroi. Vice President Green Group in the European Parliament.
Alexander de Roo. Vice Chair Environment Committee.
Hiltrud Breyer. Green MEP Germany.
Marianne Isler-Beguin. Green MEP France.
Jean Lambert. Green MEP England.
Caroline Lucas. Green MEP England.
Patricia McKenna. Green MEP Ireland.
Claude Turmes. Green MEP Luxembourg.


  1. Beninschke, A. and Küppers, Ch., Ermittlung der möglichen Strahlenexpositionen der Bevölkerung aufgrund der Emissionen der Wiederaufarbeitungsanlagen in Sellafield und La Hague, commissioned by the Bundesamt für Strahlenschutz, Öko-Institut, Darmstadt, 2000
  2. Details of this technical option are contained in a new 240 page report, April 2001, 'The Disposal of Civil Plutonium in the UK, by Fred Barker and Mike Sadnicki, two members of the British Government-appointed Radioactive Waste Management Advisory Committee

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