German nuclear shipments to be restarted

Government approves fuel transports to La Hague reprocessing plant after two year break

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 (BfS) announced on Friday. 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, travelling from the power stations Stade, Biblis and Philippsburg to 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. Operators will be subject to new transport documentation rules, plus stricter requirements to report any radioactive contamination discovered.

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 phase-out agreement reached in June (ENDS Daily 15 June).

All rail movements of spent nuclear fuel were banned by Germany in 1998 after discovery of widespread surface contamination (ENDS Daily 25 May 1998). 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 (ENDS Daily 27 January).

Follow Up:
BfS, tel: +49 53 41 88 51 00, and press release; German environment ministry, tel: +49 30 28 55 00, and press release dated 22/9/00.

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