Switzerland - Plutonium Investigation n°8

July - August 1998                                 Editorial

No Shipments - No Plutonium

The nuclear lobby makes a big mistake if it thinks that the public will forget about the contaminated nuclear transport scandal on the grounds of some hollow declarations. The aftertaste is bitter. People feel betrayed and the loss of confidence in the nuclear industry is profound.

Swiss officials, including the Safety Authority HSK, have been following their French counterparts in complete harmony with a radioactive fiction: "The transports were clean when they left the power plant". Of course, everybody in the system knows that this version - contamination on the way ? - represents only the ultimate attempt to divert attention from the uncomfortable truth: an impressive number of people have covered up the fact that international rules have been violated for more than a decade and contamination levels on transport casks, rail cars and trucks have exceeded limits by a factor of several thousand.

The French utility EDF restarted shipments on 6 July 1998 on a site by site basis, exactly two months after the story broke. No detailed overview of contamination levels has been published. No explanation has been given to the difference in performance from one site to the other. No legal consequences enforced. No responsible officials replaced.

The incriminated shipments go to reprocessing facilities at La Hague and Sellafield. The key product obtained is plutonium. Our usual section Figures of the Month is empty this time, the Swiss authorities have never published any consistent figures on their plutonium production and stocks. There is no economic or energy policy incentive to reprocess. The only destination in Switzerland for plutonium is mixed oxide fuel (MOX). Three of five Swiss reactors are over 25 years old. The utilities should not be allowed to stockpile plutonium in order to create a fait-accompli situation for the prolonged operation of their ageing reactors.

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Worth Reading & Surfing

"Superphénix et la filière des réacteurs à neutrons rapides"
Assemblée nationale, Rapport n°1018, 488 pages, 70 FF Orders at: Kiosque de l'Assemblée nationale 4, rue Aristide-Briand, F-75007 Paris