France - Plutonium Investigation n°1
 

News !

What a waste
Behind the scenes
Word of the month

Figure of the month

The alarming evolution of non irradiated plutonium (Pu) stockpiles in France is shown in the table below (figures in tonnes). More than ten tonnes of plutonium will have been put on the shelf during the year 1996 alone.

Category  
End of 1994
 
End of 1995
 
End of 1996
Separated Pu stored at reprocessing plats  
27,8
 
36,1
 
43,6

Separated Pu undergoing process and Pu contained in non finished products at fuel manufacturing plants or at other plants  
8,7
 
10,1
 
11,3

Pu contained in non irradiated MOX fuel or in other manufactured products at nuclear power plants or at other plants  
1,8
 
3,6
 
5,0

Separated Pu at other plants  
4,6
 
5,5
 
5,5
 
Total civil non irradiated Pu  
42,9
 
55,3
 
65,3
             
- of which Pu owned by foreign organisations  
21,6
 
25,7
 
30,0
             
- French Pu in foreign countries  
0,6
 
0,2
 
0,2

Source : Secrétariat d'Etat à l'Industrie, 1997.

Back
Back to contents

What a waste

COGEMA is currently building a compacting facility for medium activity waste (hulls and nozzles) on the site of its reprocessing plant at La Hague. This is the latest invention of the geniuses of the CEA subsidiary... They sold a facility to their clients for FF 3 billion (about US$ 500 million) - 59% of which is for EDF - to reduce the volume of this type of waste by a factor of four. It has been realised that the now half-built facility will only be able to reduce volumes by a factor of 2.5. In addition to this, ANDRA's, ill-fated managers of the future waste containers, have now indicated that an over-pack will no doubt be needed to provide biological protection around the compacted waste since concentrating volumes will increase radioactivity.

"We've been bad", comments an EDF representative.

Back
Back to contents


Behind the scenes

Low level radioactive waste, as well as some of the medium level radioactive waste, from the reprocessing of foreign spent fuel at La Hague will stay in France. Contrarily to what has been declared by representatives from industry and by the French government (notably by the former Minister of Industry and the present Minister for the Economy, Dominique Strauss-Kahn - who has personally stated that "every screw" would go back to its country of origin - COGEMA has committed itself to only returning high level radioactive waste and "some" medium level radioactive waste to client countries. In practice, this makes things less complicated, because, up until 1989, all low level radioactive waste was buried in the nearby La Manche disposal facility. Furthermore, COGEMA has reassured client countries that cemented radioactive waste would not be sent back before 2008. However, the 1991 decree on radioactive waste stipulates that "storage in France of imported radioactive waste (...) is forbiddenä after the "technical storage" period associated with reprocessing; normally only high-level activity waste needs to be stored in this way; foreign customers are happy with this situation. The French have been "had" (again).

Back
Back to contents

Word of the month

"For an unsophisticated proliferator, making a crude bomb (...) from reactor-grade plutonium would require no more sophistication than making a bomb from weapon-grade plutonium (...) Indeed, one Russian weapons-designer who has focused on this issue in detail criticized the information declassified by the US Department of Energy for failing to point out that in some respects it would actually be easier for an unsophisticated proliferator to make a bomb from reactor-grade plutonium (as no neutron generator would be required)".

Matthew Bunn - who directed the project by the US Academy of Sciences on the evaluation of weapons plutonium disposition options - during an IAEA Conference in June 1997.

Back
Back to contents