A programme to tighten up loading and unloading procedures for irradiated fuel elements shipped from German nuclear power stations will begin "as soon as possible," German environment minister Angela Merkel said on Monday. The announcement followed the German nuclear power industry's final report on radioactive contamination incidents on nuclear transports that led to a complete ban on burnt fuel shipments five months ago (ENDS Daily 7 May). The industry's trade association, GRS, concluded that contamination occurred when the fuel rods were prepared for shipment at German power stations - for example in the cooling ponds - and also when they were unloaded at nuclear reprocessing plants in France and the UK. It says that different container types used to transport fuel rods to La Hague in France and Sellafield in the UK explained a greater number of contamination incidents and higher levels of contamination discovered on German-French shipments (ENDS Daily 27 July). Ms Merkel also stressed that Germany's transport ban would stay in place until the government's "10-point-plan" to rectify the situation was completed. Nuclear operators are now waiting for a final report from a working group of officials from Germany, France, UK and Switzerland. Utilities' proposals for internal structural changes, a new system for reporting contamination incidents, and responsibility for future shipments, still needed to be discussed with the German states, an environment ministry spokesperson told ENDS Daily.
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