Netherlands - Plutonium Investigation n°11


Nuclear Future Waste Management

Key words in the Dutch energy policy are 'reliable, affordable and clean'. At the moment, [our] main attention is given to energy conservation, renewable energy and the liberalisation of both the electricity market and the market for natural gas". In his statement before the General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in September 1998, Ambassador Hans Forster, Head of the delegation of Netherlands, implicitly mentioned the nuclear phase-out which his country is enacting. Currently, the main (remaining) objective of the Dutch nuclear industry is the safe management of nuclear waste.

Two nuclear power plants have been operated in the Netherlands, of which one was definitely shut down in 1997, officially for economic reasons. The only operating plant is planned to be shut down at the end of 2003. On its own, it generated 3.6 TWh in 1998, which corresponds to about 4% of the total electricity generated in the Netherlands.

The Dutch nuclear industry has also collaborated with the European plutonium industry - operating reprocessing plants, MOX (plutonium fuel) fabrication plants and fast-breeder reactors. Dutch electricity utilities have had spent fuel reprocessed in France, the UK, and in Belgium. The Dutch company SEP (Samenwerkende Elektriciteits-Produktiebedrijven) has had shares in the European fast-breeder reactor programmes, the centrepiece of which was the French Superphénix fast-breeder reactor. However, in contrast to all the other countries which have been engaged in the plutonium industry, the Netherlands did not plan any use -outside the breeder programme - for plutonium which was produced through the reprocessing of their spent nuclear fuel. The current situation of the nuclear industry in Europe, in which most utilities are disengaging themselves from reprocessing and plutonium fuel programmes, therefore tends to confirm the interpretation that reprocessing was chosen solely as a temporary solution for the spent fuel. After spending several hundred million Dutch guilders for the foreign reprocessing of its spent fuel, the Netherlands are now faced with managing reprocessing waste, of which the most important is plutonium.

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