Germany to Restart International Nuclear Shipments

BERLIN, Germany, September 27, 2000 (ENS) - Germany is to permit international shipments of spent nuclear fuel for the first time in more than two years, the country's radiation protection authority Bundesamt fur Strahlenschutz (BfS) has announced.

Environmental groups immediately promised massive protests. One demonstration has already taken place on Saturday at the Gorleben interim storage facility in Lower Saxony.

Under the BfS permit, eight spent fuel shipments are to be allowed this year, traveling from the power stations Stade, Biblis and Philippsburg to the La Hague reprocessing plant in France.

This is significantly fewer shipments than the nuclear industry's requested. It had sought permission for 54 shipments to the end of 2001.

According to the BfS, the limited permission was given after assurances were received that radiation limit values would be respected through the entire transport cycle.

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April 1994, Ahauser station. The red railcars are specialized nuclear transport Castor containers carrying spent fuel. (Photo courtesy No Castor Campaign)
Operators will be subject to new transport documentation rules, plus stricter requirements to report any radioactive contamination discovered.

The radiation agency also limited the permits because of "missing insurance proofs for the year 2001, which are a permission prerequisite." A further restriction was the availability of transportation containers to carry the spent fuel to the atomic power plants.

The German Environment Ministry stressed that a further condition was that all plutonium deriving from reprocessing should be recycled to prevent any plutonium surplus arising. This was an element of the nuclear power phaseout agreement reached in June.

All rail movements of spent nuclear fuel were banned by Germany in 1998 after discovery of widespread surface contamination.

France and Switzerland initially took similar action, but have both since allowed transports to restart.

The German government permitted domestic fuel transports to restart earlier this year.

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Poster advertising Saturday's anti-nuclear demonstration at Gorleben (Photo courtesy BI)
On Saturday, a group of about 2,000 anti-nuclear demonstrators formed a large human X in a field near the temporary nuclear waste storage facility to symbolize their resistance to nuclear power generation and the inevitable radioactive waste it generates.

A prominent speaker at the demonstration was Jakob von Uexkuell, founder of the alternative Nobel prize.

Organized by the anti-nuclear group Bürgerinitiative Umweltschutz (BI) Lüchow-Dannenberg, the demonstrators came from across Germany and included representatives of large nature protection federations and doctors from International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War.

BI said the Germany's ruling Red-Green coalition of the Social Democrats and Greens helps the nuclear power plant operators to "hush up" the problems posed by nuclear waste.