Switzerland - Plutonium Investigation n°8

Where To Go Now ?

The Swiss nuclear industry realized long ago that reprocessing and the subsequent plutonium programme was not the best choice concerning the management of spent fuel. The head of the Zwilag waste interim storage facility stated in 1994: "Using uranium and plutonium from reprocessing in Light Water Reactors is not currently economically interesting. In fact, the forecasted depletion of uranium supplies did not happen, and the price of natural uranium is low. Reprocessing is revealing itself technically more demanding than what was thought initially."

More recently, the Federal Government replied the following to a written question by Mr Chiffelle concerning air transport of MOX fuel rods: "In the framework of the complete remodelling of the atomic law, there are reasons to reconsider if and under what conditions reprocessing and/or the transport of spent fuel rods [...] can continue to be accepted". This reply was quoted at the beginning of 1998 by Herbert Bay, head of the fuel department at the NOK electricity utility and nuclear operator.

Since many questions are raised concerning the usefulness and the cost of the reprocessing and plutonium programmes in Switzerland, it is quite surprising that the Government does not (officially) analyse the conditions for disengaging the utilities from the reprocessing contracts. Economic and environmental aspects should be thoroughly analysed, and decisions subsequently made. It is quite clear that a governmental decision forbidding the continuation of the contracts or an equivalent amendment to the nuclear law would help the utilities to get out of the contracts since this could be used as a "force majeure" justification towards the British and French reprocessing companies.

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Map of plutonium in Switzerland ( Pdf format, 19 Ko)