Third quarter of 2001

Australian fuel at La Hague: COGEMA under pressure from the courts

Monday 25 June 2001, a district court in Cherbourg (TGI —Tribunal de Grande Instance) has declared that ruling on importing of irradiated Australian fuel in the case between COGEMA and Greenpeace is within its jurisdiction, contrary to the opinions of the Prefect for the La Manche region and of COGEMA.

WISE-Paris, 27 June 2001

[Posted 16/07/2001]

Download the court ruling of 25 June 2001 in French, 8 p

On 25 June 2001, the district court of Cherbourg (TGI - Tribunal de Grande Instance) issued a third ruling in the case opposing COGEMA and Greenpeace regarding the importing by COGEMA of Australian irradiated fuel: COGEMA must, by 25 August 2001, either produce the "necessary authorizations to reprocess" Australian fuels or must "ship the fuel assemblies stored in France back to Australia, under threat of penalty if necessary".

Declaring in favor of Greenpeace on 14 March 2001, the TGI forbade unloading of the fuel which arrived by sea in Cherbourg (see "Sensational Court Ruling"). This ban was lifted on 3 April 2001 by the appeal court of Caen (Cour d'appel de Caen) which, while it noted the absence of any operational authorization for reprocessing, refused to rule on the basis of the case.

While considering a new request from Greenpeace, submitted on 12 April 2001, to examine the basis of the question, the Cherbourg TGI — during a hearing on 21 May 2001 — heard its jurisdiction in the matter questioned by COGEMA. The company was supported by the Prefect of the la Manche region who had authored a "déclinatoire de compétence" (denial of jurisdiction), a document submitted to the TGI asking it to rule that such matters are beyond its jurisdiction.

In spite of this pressure, the Cherbourg court declared that deciding on the legality of importation of irradiated fuels from the Australian research reactor at Lucas Height is within its jurisdiction.

It is now the Cherbourg TGI which will have to decide on the fate of these imported materials which COGEMA has no authorization to reprocess. While awaiting a final verdict, COGEMA is once again under an import ban on Australian wastes. The La Hague plant, however, continues to accumulate irradiated fuels for which it has no outlets: irradiated MOX fuel from research reactors (including German); (re-) enriched uranium from reprocessing; and even "bad" MOX (French manufacturing rejects and German storage assemblies— see "Secret Shipments and Illegal Storage"). All of these can be found in the cooling ponds at La Hague (see table below).

Storage of irradiated fuels at La Hague, as of 31 May 2001, (tonnes of heavy metal)

Spent LWR
Spent URE
Spent MOX
Spent MTR
Fresh MOX

LWR: Light-Water Reactor
URE: Reprocessing Enriched Uranium
MOX: Mixed Oxide Fuel
MTR: Materials Testing Reactor

Back to contents