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
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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