Switzerland - Plutonium Investigation n°8

Contamination of Spent Fuel Transports

As in the case of French and German nuclear power plants, (see Plutonium Investigation Transport Special) casks and rail cars carrying spent fuel from Swiss plants to COGEMA's reprocessing facility at La Hague were contaminated. According to the Swiss Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate HSK, it was informed by the French safety authority DSIN on 28 April 1998 that casks and rail cars had been identified contaminated on arrival at the COGEMA terminal at Valognes near La Hague. With the exception of the Mühleberg boiling-water reactor (BWR), all the Swiss plants were concerned. According to an HSK representative, neither casks nor rail cars were contaminated when they left the Swiss power plants. The same - highly incredible - defence line had been taken by French and German utilities.

In July 1998, the Swiss Safety Inspectorate, which has forbidden new transports in the meantime, stated that the licences for new shipments would be granted once the industry proposed a method to tackle the problem, and that this approach "will convince" the safety authorities. The representative said this could last "two or three months". The reasons for the contamination "are still under study".

However, an empty cask which had arrived at the Leibstadt nuclear power plant at the beginning of May 1998 shall be sent back - empty - to France. This transport should enable the analysis of new measuring procedures and decontamination techniques.

It can be assumed that if the transports are resumed over the next few months, the transport contamination will not have had a critical influence on the management of spent fuel at the power plants since refuelling operations are required about once a year.

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Incoherence with reprocessing figures