Transport Special - Plutonium Investigation n°6/7

May June1998                               Editorial

The Nuclear Cover-Up

There are two scandals, both unprecedented. The first lies in the fact that for 15 years the nuclear industry - power plants, transport companies, plutonium factories and nuclear safety institutes in France, Germany, Switzerland and the UK at least - have managed to hide the fact that the international transport regulations for spent fuel shipments have been constantly violated, up to levels exceeding several thousand times the limit. This is all the more stunning as the original recommendation stems from the industry friendly, heavily pro-nuclear International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna. The second scandal derives from the fact that the French nuclear safety authority DSIN has been aware of the problem since autumn 1997, agreed with the French nuclear industry representatives over the wording of a mere "cleanliness problem", and kept silent until a journalistic investigation brought the story to light. The safety authority neither informed its ministers nor its foreign counterparts and, of course, nor did it inform the public. Worse, when the story broke, the authority played the role of the tough transparent State control agency finally cleaning up... without actually taking any kind of regulatory or disciplinary consequences, while downplaying health consequences and the persistent outrageous violation of regulations. The action to stop the rail transport was taken by the rail company, not by the safety authority or the government. As one of the DSIN inspectors explains: "The nuclear companies are punished enough by the image loss due to the media coverage".

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