Denmark calls for end to nuclear reprocessing

Auken submits formal proposal for moratorium to June Ospar ministerial meeting

The Danish government today made a bid to end nuclear reprocessing in Europe, calling on contracting parties to the Ospar convention for the protection of the marine environment in the North-East Atlantic to agree to "suspend the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel, with immediate effect".

Forwarded to the Ospar secretariat for consideration at June's ministerial meeting of convention parties, the proposal marks another ratcheting up of political opposition to nuclear reprocessing following serious criticisms of safety management at the UK's Sellafield plant made in February (ENDS Daily 18 February). It would, however, equally affect the other main European reprocessing plant at La Hague in France.

Ospar officials predicted "tough political discussions" on reprocessing at the June meeting, but admitted that the chances of a ban were slim. For Ospar decisions to be binding, they must be agreed unanimously by all members of the organisation. A three-quarters majority is possible, but the resolution is not then binding on members voting against, as France and the UK certainly will.

Forwarded by Danish environment minister Svend Auken, the proposal reminds Ospar parties of their 1998 Sintra agreement to make progressive and substantial reductions in marine radioactive pollution, with the ultimate aim of achieving close to zero concentrations of artificial radioactive substances (ENDS Daily 23 July 1998).

It also notes that a 1994 agreement in the Ospar framework to assess alternative options for spent nuclear fuel management had led to a report by the Nuclear Energy Agency of the OECD "demonstrating that implementing the non-reprocessing option (dry storage) for spent fuel would eliminate the discharges and emissions of radioactive substances that currently arise from reprocessing it".

Follow Up:
Danish environment ministry, tel: +45 33 92 76 00; Ospar secretariat, tel: +44 20 72 42 99 27.

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