Transport Special - Plutonium Investigation n°6/7
 

News !

MPs in favor of MOX
The end of a reprocessing plant
Transport scandal sways public opinion

Figure of the month

The table gives the contamination levels per measuring point exceeding the regulatory limit of a given rail car coming into Valognes (transfer station rail/road) from German nuclear power plants, in the period between February 1997 and February 1998. The figures prove that high levels of between 500 and 3,300 times the legal limit were found on a significant proportion of the 17 measuring points. Although the highest contamination, of 13,400 Bq, was on a spot "the size of a coin", larger surfaces (the entire measuring surface of 300 cm2) have been found contaminated up to 13,000 Bq/cm2. The table also shows that the industry was far from containing the problem; on the contrary, there is strong evidence to suggest that the situation had become continually worse over the last two years.

Reactor   Container type   Date of transport   Value by measuring point
( Bq )
 
Brunsbüttel
  TN17/2-701   07.07.97   2220

Grafenrheinfeld   NTL10   26.08.97   6000

Grafenrheinfeld   TN13/1-01   02.09.97   800
670
3300

Grohnde   TN13/2-308   18.08.97   1300
530
13000

Grohnde   TN13/2-308   22.09.97   13400
2000

Isar 2   TN13/2-308   09.06.97   6700

Philippsburg 1   TN17/2-703   17.02.97   8000
530
330

Philippsburg 2   TN13/2-308   20.01.98   5350
2700
2000
1300
1300
670
670

Philippsburg 2   TN13/2-308   17.02.98   10000
2000
2000
1300

Philippsburg 2   TN13/1-01   29.10.97   13000
3300
1300

Philippsburg 2   TN13/02-308   02.12.97   4000
2000
2000
1300

Philippsburg 2   TN13/1-301*   09.12.97   3300
2700
2000
1600
1300
1300
1000

Philippsburg 2   TN13/2-308   22.12.97   13000
3300
3300
2700
2700
2000
1600
1000
1000

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MPs in favor of MOX

The French Parliamentary Office for Scientific and Technological Evaluation has just issued a report, 10 June 1998, concerning the management of spent fuel, reprocessing, and plutonium. The report reminds us that the stockpile of plutonium in France is 65 tonnes (as of 1996), which is "way above the 20 tonnes which (the electricity utility) EDF considers necessary" for the operation of the MOX plants (this last figure seems very conservative). The MPs consider that the plutonium stockpile is higher than it should be. However, instead of recommending to reduce the production of plutonium, through the reduction of reprocessing throughputs, the report is greatly in favor of MOX fuel use: After stating its opinion that the interest for plutonium use in MOX fuel was due to the energy content of plutonium in spent fuel, as well as in the management of nuclear waste, the Office wrote:

"In this sense, the following obviously appears to be in the common interest: "- allowing the number of reactors using MOX fuel to increase from 16 to 28 very shortly (...); "- studying the introduction of MOX in the (more recent) 1,300 and 1,400 MWe reactors; "- and especially, designing the future European Pressurised water Reactor (EPR) in order to enable it to use more plutonium than it produces (...)"

However, the Office acknowledged it has not taken into account economic or financial elements (contrary to many electricity utilities, the Office seems confident that using MOX is an economic asset). Also, MP Robert Galley brushed aside proliferation concerns by stating for instance that the idea that there is a possibile terrorism risk "won't hold water" (ça ne tient pas, ces choses). Office parlementaire d'évaluation des choix scientifiques et technologiques.

Rapport sur l'aval du cycle nucléaire, by Christian Bataille et Robert Galley, Members of Parliament, preliminary version presented to the press on 10 June 1998.

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The end of a reprocessing plant

On 5 June 1998, in a written answer to a Parliamentary Question from Dr Lewis Moonie MP, the British Science, Energy and Industry Minister John Battle said:

"The UKAEA have advised me that there is no economic case for supporting commercial reprocessing at Dounreay over the longer term. The Government has therefore decided that Dounreay should take on no further commercial reprocessing work. Reprocessing at Dounreay will therefore come to an end when the plant has completed reprocessing its own fuel, the Georgian Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) and its existing commercial contracts."

The Dounreay reprocessing plant started operation in 1977 and has mostly reprocessed fast breeder reactor fuel (about 35ÊMT by the end of 1995). The shutdown of the Dounreay plant, although the stockpile of British plutonium has reached very high levels, will surely cast a shadow on the economic justification for the plutonium industry.

Source: Press Release from Department of Trade and Industry dated 5 June 1998, and Worldwide Reprocessing Summary, NAC International, March 1995.

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Transport scandal sways public opinion

The scandal over the transport of irradiated fuel has lost the nuclear industry many of its supporters... in Germany, according to an opinion poll published in the weekly news magazine Der Spiegel, on June 8, 1998. people were asked the following question: "The nuclear industy hid from the public the fact that shipments from Castor (a generic term used in Germany for irradiated fuel containers - Editor's note) were sometimes contaminated. Have the problems over the Castor (shipments) changed your opinion on nuclear energy?" 28% of respondents declared that they had been in favor of nuclear energy and still were; 44% said that they were in favor of a nuclear phase-out before, and still were; and 23% said that prior to the affair they had been basically for, but were now against nuclear energy.

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