of the month
No figures of the month
Switzerland has agreed - in theory - to the contents of the recent
"Guidelines for the Management of Plutonium" proposed by parties to
the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). While these guidelines
explicitly request countries to publish annual figures for the countries'
plutonium stockpiles, Switzerland has never published such figures.
However, in a 31 March 1998 "note verbale", the Permanent Mission to
the IAEA of Switzerland comments: "In the last years, political opposition
against reprocessing has grown. Fuel element transports to reprocessing
plants are increasingly the target of anti-nuclear activities by environmental
organisations". And this was one month before the scandal of the contaminated
spent fuel transports was revealed.
Words of the month
"It is striking that the [US-] Euratom and [US-] Swiss agreements
have been concluded at precisely the time new governments in France
and in the United Kingdom are questioning the wisdom of the totally
uneconomic reprocessing, MOX, and breeder reactor programmes which
British and French taxpayers have been saddled. Hopefully, these agreements
will prove to be the 'last hurrah' of the old guard fuel cycle fraternity".
US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) Member Edward McGaffigan in
a written statement in the framework of an interagency review process,
according to Nuclear Fuel.
What a waste
French Commission Against Geological Disposal of HLW
At the end of April, the French Government requested from the National
Evaluation Commission (CNE) a report on the retrievability of the geological
disposal of radioactive waste, in order to influence further research
to be carried out by the national radioactive waste management agency
ANDRA. The CNE was created on the basis of the 30 December 1991 Act
on radioactive waste research to annually assess the evolution of research
concerning the management of radioactive waste.
The CNE report, published at the beginning of July 1998, gives much
importance to public acceptability: "No solution concerning the final
disposal of nuclear waste will be found until the general public has
been convinced of quality and sturdyness of the retained option".
Its conclusions are quite surprising, and go against the general official
view that geological disposal is the ultimate solution for high-level
radioactive waste (HLW). Since spent nuclear fuel contains nuclear materials
which can be reused, the CNE recommends to store it in surface or subsurface
storage facilities. The same storage option is recommended for HLW generated
by reprocessing, on the basis that future research might identify a
better solution. However, the CNE recommends - for unclear reasons -
to dispose of intermediate-level radioactive waste in geological sites
and thus "saves" the current government strategy.
Phénix Operated - Under Legal Jeopardy
Since the industrial-size Superphénix fast-breeder reactor has been
abandoned by the current French government, governmental and industrial
authorities have decided to carry out research concerning transmutation
of long lived isotopes in the demonstration FBR Phénix.
At the end of May 1998, the Forum Plutonium, a French pressure
group of organisations and people concerned about plutonium production
and use, filed a complaint against the restart licence of Phénix. Forum
Plutonium considers that its operation is unsafe, since the oldest
French operating reactor is planned to undergo major refurbishment only
after a period of operation. Furthermore, according to Forum Plutonium,
the licensing is not legally sound. The original creation Bill should
be nullified since the plant has not been operating for a period exceeding
two years (a particularity of French law); also, the new objectives
of the plant concerning nuclear research are not compatible with the
original objective of being a demonstration nuclear power plant.
The Forum Plutonium filed the complaint at the Montpellier Administrative
court. One decision has already been made: the case has been transferred
by the highest administrative court (Conseil d'Etat) from Montpellier
to the Paris administrative court. Knowing about the highly centralised
and often government friendly Paris administration, this is hardly a
good sign for the Forum Plutonium. Nevertheless, the rumour goes
that a confidential government legal analysis shows that the complaint
has excellent chances for success.
Contact : Jean-Pierre Morichaud, Forum Plutonium
Tel : +33 (0)4 7527 9767
Fax : +33 (0)4 7527 9846