Belgium - Plutonium Investigation n°9

The 1993 Resolution

In 1993, for the first time, a parliamentary debate decided on the Belgian national policy concerning MOX and reprocessing. The decisions were to be respected for a five-year period, at the end of which another parliamentary debate is to decide of a new policy.

Following is a large excerpt from the 1993 resolution: "The House [of Representatives], [...] instructs the Government:

1) not to give privilege in the future to the strategy of reprocessing as compared to the storage and to direct disposal (once through cycle). The Government cannot consider anymore reprocessing as the reference strategy. It must create the conditions which enable the development of the strategy of packaging and direct disposal as an alternative;

2) during a five year period: - not to execute the contract agreed in 1990; - not to confirm the options which were planned through this contract, which Belgium was to confirm in 1995; - not to negotiate any new contract during this period which is to be devoted to the analysis of the alternatives;

3) to give priority to research and development, including on an international level, in order to be able later to opt for the direct disposal of spent fuel, without reducing the current research programme concerning the geological disposal of reprocessing waste. The report which is transmitted each year to the Houses of Representatives by [the national nuclear waste management organisation] ONDRAF will comprise a precise progress report of these research programmes.

4) to submit [to the Houses of Representatives] the elements for a new global evaluation of the situation, notably on the basis of the following criteria: non proliferation, management of waste, security, protection of the workforce, of the population and of the environment, and also economic aspects.

5) Taking into account the result of the legal analysis requested by the Government and the House of Representatives concerning the economic consequences which would follow cancellation of the reprocessing contract signed in 1978, to allow the fulfillment of the contract. The Government will examine the possibility of transmitting to a third body part of the reprocessing capacities of the spent fuel which has not yet been sent to La Hague;

6) To allow for the use of the plutonium which has been separated with the 1978 reprocessing contract in the Belgian nuclear power plants, based on the analysis of possible usage and the results of the safety analysis. The latter notably plans that the power plants not be modified; [...]

11) to have the Federal Agency for Nuclear Control operational as soon as possible, after the Bill is adopted by the Houses of Representatives."

There are three points of this resolution which have not been properly respected. The first one concerns reprocessing contracts - a reprocessing contract was signed with the French reprocessor COGEMA for the reprocessing of spent fuel from the demonstration 11 MWe BR3 pressurised water reactor (PWR), which was definitely shut down in 1987. The second point concerns the "Federal Agency for Nuclear Control". This organisation still does not exist five years after the House of Representatives requested its establishment "as soon as possible". Sources in Belgium suggest that this Agency will be created shortly. However, its planned statutes and selection of future staff have been criticised, notably by the Green MP Martine Dardenne. It seems that the new organisation will mainly hire current representatives of the nuclear industry, which will not favor its independence. The third point is that reprocessing is still considered to be the reference scenario. No plans have been made, no national studies have been carried out on the direct storage of spent fuel.

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Map of plutonium in Belgium ( Pdf format, 68 Ko)