Franco-German nuclear dispute continues

Summit ends without decision on waste shipments, working group formed to seek solution

German chancellor Gerhard Schröder, French president Jacques Chirac and French prime minister Lionel Jospin tried and failed on Friday to resolve a stalemate over cross-border shipments of spent and reprocessed nuclear fuel. A Franco-German working group now has until Christmas to find a solution.

The dispute centres on Germany's unwillingness to accept the return from France of waste left over from reprocessing of fuel from German power stations, which has gradually amassed over the last three years. The French government retaliated by refusing to accept any more spent fuel for reprocessing at La Hague plant until Germany opened the door for return shipments (ENDS Daily 17 October).

Billed mainly as preparation for the EU's treaty revision summit at Nice next month, Friday's meeting also provided an opportunity to search for a solution to the nuclear transport dispute.

Resolving the issue is becoming a matter of urgency because some German nuclear power stations are running out of space to store spent fuel and could eventually be forced to stop operating unless transports restart. "The problem is serious and we can only wait about a half a year", said a spokesperson for the German Atomic Forum.

Having earlier argued that a lack of storage facilities was the main obstacle to accepting the return of reprocessed nuclear fuel, Mr Schröder said after Friday's talks that the principal problem was opposition by some German states. In addition, a section of the rail route for returning the waste is expected to be closed until mid-next year due to bridge repairs.

Follow Up:
French president's office, tel: +33 1 42 92 81 00; summary of 76th Franco-German summit will be posted on the site soon.

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