Resumption of German nuclear shipments in sight

Trittin says first transport could be in January 2000, four permit applications outstanding

German environment minister Jürgen Trittin has accepted that domestic shipments of nuclear waste from German power stations to national storage depots will restart in January, according to an article in today's Berliner Zeitung. The newspaper reports Mr Trittin as telling Green party colleagues that Germany's nuclear industry has almost dealt with safety worries over the shipments and that he will not be able to ignore their legal rights to restart them.

The German environment ministry was unable to comment on the article today, but a spokesperson for the federal radiation protection agency (BfS) confirmed that work by the industry on a 10-point safety plan imposed by the previous government was "on the point of completion". Arthur Junkert also said that there were four outstanding applications from power firms for permission to transport spent fuel rods from power stations to the two interim storage sites at Gorleben and Ahaus.

The 10-point safety requirements were set after the government banned all nuclear shipments in May 1998 following the discovery of surface radioactive contamination on nuclear fuel transports in several European countries (ENDS Daily 25 May 1998). Transport bans were also imposed in France and Switzerland but these were subsequently lifted.

In Germany, meanwhile, the ban on nuclear power stations shipping waste to interim storage sites has become entangled in the new government's plan to phase out nuclear power, leading to industry fears that some power stations might run out of storage capacity for spent fuel rods and have to be closed down.

Mr Trittin, whose Green party is fighting with its senior SDP coalition partner for an early phase out of the industry, has been widely thought to be using the continued ban on nuclear waste shipments as a lever in this broader dispute. In March, the minister publicly stated that it would "go against the spirit" of nuclear phase-out talks between industry and the government, for the transport ban to be lifted before the talks were completed (ENDS Daily 26 March). The phase-out talks are still underway.

Follow Up:
German radiation protection agency, tel: +49 5341 8850; Berliner Zeitung, tel: +49 30 23279.

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