Category Archives: opwerking | reprocessing

US experts warn plutonium stocks could soar in East Asia

Washington Post | AP | Matthew Pennington and Mari Yamaguchi | October 7, 2015


FILE – In this Nov. 8, 2012, file photo, spent nuclear fuel rods are stored in a storage pool at the Rokkasho nuclear fuel reprocessing plant, run by Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. in Rokasho village in Aomori Prefecture, northern Japan. Experts warn that Northeast Asia could see a dangerous growth in stocks of weapons-usable plutonium _ and U.S. lawmakers say Obama administration policies could be making matters worse. Japan plans to open as early as next spring a plant that could reprocess enough spent reactor fuel to make as many as 1,000 nuclear bombs a year. The plutonium that is produced is supposed to be for generating electricity, but Japan already has tons on hand and no use for it, with its reactors at a virtual halt following the 2011 Fukushima Dai-ichi disaster. (Koji Sasahara, File/Associated Press)

WASHINGTON — Experts warn that Northeast Asia could see a dangerous growth in stocks of weapons-usable plutonium — and U.S. lawmakers say Obama administration policies could be making matters worse.

Japan plans to open as early as next spring a plant that could reprocess enough spent reactor fuel to make as many as 1,000 nuclear bombs a year. The plutonium that is produced is supposed to be for generating electricity, but Japan already has tons on hand and no use for it, with its reactors at a virtual halt following the 2011 Fukushima Dai-ichi disaster. Local politicians are aggressively backing the plant, eager for investment in a remote northern region.

Meanwhile, the U.S. is renewing civil nuclear agreements with China and South Korea on less restrictive terms.

For the first time, China has prior consent to extract plutonium from the spent fuel generated in U.S.-designed reactors. The plutonium could potentially be used for nuclear weapons, though the agreement bars the use of American technology for military purposes. South Korea could also get permission to reprocess within six years.

Some lawmakers say that sends the wrong message.

“We should not leave doors open for our partners to use U.S. technology to process spent nuclear fuel in ways that produce material that can be used as the building blocks for nuclear weapons,” Democratic Sen. Ed Markey told the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations last week.

Reprocessing is the method by which spent reactor fuel is recycled chemically to separate nuclear waste from plutonium that can be used as fuel.

From the inception of its nuclear energy program, Japan decided to pursue reprocessing to provide a self-sustaining nuclear fuel source. But technical hurdles and the growing availability of uranium on the international market has diminished the economic rationale.

Japan has already accumulated a massive stockpile of plutonium it sent overseas for reprocessing. There is 11 metric tons in Japan and another 36 metric tons reprocessed in Britain and France waiting to be returned to Japan — in all enough for nearly 6,000 atomic bombs.

Few question Japan’s opposition to nuclear weapons. It is the only nation to have suffered an atomic attack, and unlike nuclear-armed China, it has an impeccable nonproliferation record. Like South Korea, Japan relies on U.S. nuclear deterrence in the face of the growing threat from North Korea.

But experts say that if Japan opens the Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant when it’s unclear how it would use the plutonium, alarm bells would ring in Beijing and Seoul, which are already suspicious of the current government’s tougher national security posture. Some fear a regional fissile production race could ensue.

“It sets a bad example, precisely because Japan is such a well-respected country in terms of non-proliferation. If in future a different country starts to stockpile — could be enriched uranium, it could be plutonium — that country could cite Japan as a precedent,” said James Acton, author of a new report on Japan’s reprocessing policy at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace think tank.

President Barack Obama, who has made international nuclear security a policy priority, has highlighted the dangers of stockpiling fissile material.

“The very process that gives us nuclear energy can also put nations and terrorists within the reach of nuclear weapons. We simply can’t go on accumulating huge amounts of the very material, like separated plutonium, that we’re trying to keep away from terrorists,” Obama told a nuclear summit in Seoul in 2012.

But Robert Gallucci, a former chief U.S. negotiator with North Korea, has criticized the administration for failing to address the threat posed by what he calls a “tsunami of rising plutonium stocks.”

China, which has its own military stockpile of 1.8 metric tons of plutonium, has yet to decide to reprocess spent nuclear fuel on a commercial scale for its fast-growing atomic energy industry. But its new 30-year agreement with the U.S., negotiated by the Obama administration, allows for that eventuality.

The proposed 20-year U.S. agreement with South Korea, currently under congressional review, provides a pathway toward reprocessing as early as 2021, pending the results of a joint study into the viability of a method of recycling nuclear waste called pyro-processing.

Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said the Obama administration was leading Seoul “with a bread trail toward reprocessing” and undermining the goals of nonproliferation.

“It’s as if they are being treated less well (than Japan) if we did not allow them to do this,” said Corker.

Thomas Countryman, U.S. assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, said it was a “reasonable compromise” with Seoul to postpone the decision on the right to reprocess. He denied that regional competitiveness entered into the negotiations.

“The message for partners in East Asia or anywhere else is that decisions about enrichment and reprocessing technologies must be transparent, must be economically logical and must be defensible on the basis of the physical security and the safeguarding of such fissile material,” he told the hearing.

Whether the Rokkasho plant meets those standards is doubtful.

The operator, Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd., or JNFL, says government and U.N. surveillance would make illegal removal of plutonium “impossible.”

But the economic fundamentals of the delay-plagued plant are lousy.

Now scheduled to be completed in March 2016, it has cost $22 billion so far — four times the planned cost in 1989. Further delays are likely because of stricter safety screening by the nuclear regulators required after the Fukushima disaster. The plant depends on nine regional utilities for funding, based on their reactor operations, the prospects for which are uncertain. Most experts contend it would make more sense to bury the nuclear waste in concrete casks rather than try to recycle it.

But local pressure to proceed with the plant is intense. The local prefecture wants the jobs and has threatened to demand the removal of the more than 3,000 tons of spent fuel if the project falls through.


Yamaguchi reported from Tokyo.

Wagging the Plutonium Dog: Japanese Domestic Politics and Its International Security Implications

Carnegie Endowment | James M. Acton | September 29, 2015

Japan has pledged not to produce more plutonium than it can consume. Serious questions are emerging, however, about whether it can uphold this commitment.

Japan is the only non-nuclear-weapon state with a program to extract plutonium from the spent fuel produced in nuclear reactors—a process termed reprocessing—to fabricate more fuel. Because plutonium can be used directly in the manufacturing of nuclear weapons, Japan has, in keeping with internationally recognized best practice, pledged not to produce more plutonium than it can consume. Serious questions are emerging, however, about whether it can uphold this commitment.

Japan’s Entrapment

  • Japan is entrapped in reprocessing. Commitments made by the national government to local communities to facilitate the development of Japan’s nuclear industry and, in particular, its industrial-scale reprocessing facility, Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant (RRP) make RRP’s operation effectively inevitable.
  • Entrapment results in domestic pressure to operate RRP. In 2012, that pressure forced the administration of then prime minister Yoshihiko Noda, which sought to phase out nuclear energy, into supporting reprocessing.
  • Following the March 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident, Japan faces severe challenges—including domestic politics—in bringing nuclear reactors back into operation. Over the next decade, Japan is very unlikely to restart more than about half of the reactors designated for plutonium consumption.
  • Within a decade, Japan will probably be producing more plutonium than its reactors can consume.

Takeaways for Japan and the International Community

Japan could take steps to reduce its supply of plutonium. It could operate RRP at a lower throughput and negotiate with the United Kingdom, and possibly France, over their taking ownership of Japanese plutonium stored in Europe. Japan might also conduct research into alternative means of disposing of plutonium, possibly in collaboration with the United Kingdom and the United States.

While operating RRP, Japan could take the steps necessary to create the option of phasing out reprocessing in the future. Such steps would include changing the law to permit funds set aside for waste management to be used for the direct disposal of spent fuel and ensuring that Japan’s planned geological repository is licensed for spent fuel. Japan would also need to secure additional interim storage facilities for spent fuel, possibly by offering greater financial incentives to any prefecture willing to host one.

The Japanese government must take ownership of the problem. No realistic solution can be implemented solely by the private companies that own Japanese plutonium and operate RRP.

The government should develop a plutonium management strategy as soon as possible. Waiting will merely exacerbate the challenges.

Other states considering reprocessing should design programs so they do not become entrapped. A critical step would be to ensure adequate storage space for spent fuel.


Since the mid-1970s, the United States has made ever more strenuous efforts to minimize stockpiles of nuclear material around the world. These efforts are partially motivated by, and usually explained in terms of, preventing nuclear terrorism by ensuring the security of materials that can be used directly in the manufacturing of nuclear weapons—separated plutonium and highly enriched uranium (HEU) most significantly. Since 2009, when he pledged “to secure all vulnerable nuclear material around the world within four years,”1 U.S. President Barack Obama has invested unprecedented political and financial capital in U.S. nuclear threat reduction programs. Although his four-year goal was not met, his administration has succeeded in removing or denaturing almost 3 metric tons of foreign HEU and plutonium—significantly more than the United States had secured in the previous three decades.2 Moreover, Washington has also made progress in widening international support for fissile material minimization efforts. Most notably, at the 2014 Hague Nuclear Security Summit, 53 world leaders pledged, for the first time, to minimize civilian stocks of both HEU and plutonium.3

Fissile material minimization efforts were originally motivated by nonproliferation—preventing the further spread of nuclear weapons among states—and this remains one of the goals, even if, for reasons of diplomatic courtesy, Washington rarely says so explicitly. Because fissile material accumulations significantly reduce the time required to manufacture nuclear weapons (or, equivalently, increase the number of nuclear weapons that can be manufactured in a short time), they exacerbate proliferation risks. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards, which non-nuclear-weapon states party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty are required to accept, mitigate these risks somewhat, but do not solve them given that their purpose is to detect—not prevent—the diversion of nuclear material, that is, its removal from declared and monitored activities. The stockpiling of nuclear material, which reduces the time available for responding to a diversion, makes an effective response to proliferation threats more difficult and less likely. It is for this reason, for example, that the nuclear agreement with Iran that was concluded in July 2015 commits Tehran not to produce any HEU (or, indeed, to enrich to anywhere near that level) and to reduce its stockpile of low-enriched uranium drastically (given that this stockpile could be converted into HEU relatively rapidly).

Currently, no state is producing HEU for nonmilitary purposes, but six do have civilian reprocessing programs, which aim to separate plutonium from spent nuclear fuel for the purpose of manufacturing more fuel.4 Along with the United States and various other countries, all six of these states have committed to adhere to the IAEA’s Guidelines on Plutonium Management, which explicitly recognize the proliferation risks associated with separated plutonium and underscore the “importance of balancing supply and demand.”5 As such, these states have made a political commitment not to stockpile more separated plutonium than the so-called working stocks they need to have on hand to implement their fuel-cycle policies.

Of the six states with civilian reprocessing programs, only one—Japan—is a non-nuclear-weapon state. Japan’s commitment to and compliance with IAEA safeguards have been exemplary. However, starting in the 1980s, there were growing concerns that Japan lacked the ability to use the plutonium it planned to separate and, as a consequence, was on course to stockpile large quantities of the material.6 In response, Tokyo pledged, in 1991, not to separate plutonium that it could not burn in its reactors and has repeated this no-excess pledge on many occasions since.7 It further strengthened this pledge in 1997 by agreeing to adhere to the IAEA’s Guidelines on Plutonium Management.

Yet, because of various delays in implementing its recycling program, Japan’s stockpile of separated plutonium now exceeds any reasonable definition of working stocks. It has accumulated about 11 metric tons of the material onshore from production in a domestic pilot-scale facility and from the reprocessing of Japanese spent fuel in France and the United Kingdom. Another 36 metric tons of separated plutonium are still located in those states, waiting to be returned.8 (For context, the IAEA assumes that 8 kilograms is “the approximate amount . . . for which the possibility of manufacturing a nuclear explosive device cannot be excluded.”9)

All future reprocessing of Japanese spent fuel is due to take place onshore at Rokkasho Reprocessing Plant (RRP), which has a design capacity of roughly 8 metric tons of plutonium per year. Extensive repairs to this facility, to correct serious design flaws revealed during testing, were completed in 2013. Japan Nuclear Fuel Limited, the plant’s owner and operator, now intends to reopen the facility in March 2016, after the Japanese regulator has certified its compliance with new safety standards—although further delays are almost certain.10

Even before the accident at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in March 2011, Japan was facing problems in securing enough reactor capacity to ensure that the expected plutonium supply from RRP could be consumed. The accident has severely exacerbated these challenges. At the time of this writing, in June 2015, no Japanese power reactors are in operation. For a variety of reasons, including domestic politics, many will never reopen; the others appear set to come back into operation very slowly. Many nonproliferation experts, particularly in the United States, have argued that, to avoid stockpiling yet more plutonium, Japan should now delay the restart of RRP indefinitely or even shut it permanently.11

In fact, since the Fukushima Daiichi accident, Japan has considered doing just that. In the summer of 2011, the government launched a major review of Japanese energy policy. Pushed by a tide of public concern about nuclear safety, it eventually decided on the goal of eliminating nuclear energy by the 2030s, and was advised that it should also abandon reprocessing by the Japan Atomic Energy Commission—the cabinet’s most important advisory body on nuclear energy and the government organization responsible for nonproliferation.12 The result was a serious discussion about shutting RRP.

This discussion was short-lived, however. It sparked a furious backlash from the tiny community in the remote part of northern Japan that hosts RRP and strongly supports its operation. Remarkably, this community had garnered the power, should the plant be shut, to threaten a domestic crisis by demanding the removal of the spent fuel that was already stored there, and a simultaneous international crisis by refusing to import nuclear waste from abroad that Japan was contractually obliged to accept. These threats were so potent that the administration of then prime minister Yoshihiko Noda was forced into supporting the continuation of reprocessing, even while advocating for a phaseout of nuclear energy.13 The result of this inherently contradictory policy would have been the accumulation of huge quantities of plutonium.

In the end, the Noda administration’s plan could not even gain the approval of the whole cabinet (for reasons unrelated to nonproliferation). Then, in December 2012, the Liberal Democratic Party defeated Noda’s Democratic Party of Japan at the polls. Subsequently, a new coalition government, led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, adopted an apparently more coherent energy plan, under which Japan will continue with both reprocessing and nuclear power.14 However, the process of crafting the Noda administration’s energy plan provides a graphic illustration of just how entrapped in reprocessing—or, at least, in the operation of RRP—Japan has become.

First described by the political scientist William Walker in regard to the United Kingdom’s reprocessing program, entrapment occurs when the web of political, legal, and financial commitments required to facilitate major projects severely reduces a government’s flexibility to adapt to changing circumstances.15 In the British case, the most important commitments were, coincidentally, contractual obligations to reprocess Japanese spent fuel.

By contrast, domestic politics, which was a relatively minor consideration in the United Kingdom, is the most important mechanism entrapping Japan. Specifically, Japanese local politicians have acquired a remarkable ability to prevent significant changes to the country’s nuclear policy. They have assumed the status of veto players—individual or collective decisionmakers whose agreement is required for the status quo to be changed—to use the political science jargon.

These local politicians have now placed the national government in an uncomfortable double bind.16 Any renewed attempt to back away from reprocessing would be met with fierce resistance from the local politicians connected with RRP. Meanwhile, the local politicians connected with reactors will severely complicate the task of consuming the plutonium that RRP produces. As a result, there is a serious risk that, within a decade, Japan’s already-significant stockpile of separated plutonium will start to grow rapidly.

Even if Japan’s plutonium policies are being driven by domestic politics—and not the maintenance of a nuclear weapons option, as is often argued17—it would, for at least three reasons, be shortsighted to conclude that the country’s existing plutonium stockpile (let alone the possibility that it may grow rapidly) does not pose serious security risks.

First, all plutonium stockpiles, wherever they are located and regardless of why they were acquired, exacerbate the risk of nuclear terrorism. Abe himself acknowledged this concern in a joint statement with Obama.18

Second, some of Japan’s neighbors believe (incorrectly) that Tokyo is accumulating plutonium for military purposes. China has been particularly vocal in its criticism, and although its statements are partly political opportunism at a time of particularly poor Sino-Japanese relations, they probably also reflect genuine concern about Japan’s long-term intentions.19 As a result, by producing yet more plutonium without a credible plan to use it, Japan is likely to exacerbate regional tensions further.

Third, Japan’s stockpiling of plutonium sets a precedent that could make it more difficult to limit the fissile material holdings of states that do pose more serious proliferation risks. Domestic politics is once again at issue: a government is likely to find it easier to explain and sell, as it were, limits on its nuclear program (whether negotiated or unilaterally undertaken) to domestic stakeholders if such limits are widely accepted internationally. Comparisons to other states—including Japan—are, for example, common in the internal Iranian discourse over limiting its nuclear program and may also influence the domestic debate in states that acquire fuel-cycle capabilities in the future.20

Given these risks, Japan has a clear interest in ensuring that it lives up to its commitments by not accumulating even more plutonium and, ideally, drawing down its existing stockpile over time. Developing a credible way forward requires understanding the nature of the challenges Japan faces, the most important of which is the domestic politics that creates pressure to separate plutonium while hindering Japan’s ability to use it. To this end, this study analyzes both the causes of Japan’s entrapment in reprocessing and the challenges it now faces in trying to burn plutonium after the Fukushima Daiichi accident, before discussing a politically realistic way forward.

Continue here

China-France to increase nuclear fuel recycling | Xinhua | Mo Hong’e | Sep 24, 2015

The China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) said on Wednesday that it is choosing a site for a Sino-France nuclear power project featuring mass nuclear fuel recycling.

The construction by the CNNC and the France-based Areva is expected to start in 2020 and finish in 2030.

Nuclear recycling refers reprocessing materials which has already been used and recovering unused uranium and plutonium.

The project will reprocess 800 tonnes of materials from domestic nuclear power stations.

The project will also store the spent fuel, manage nuclear power station discharges and solidify liquid waste via vitrification to make safe, clean nuclear power.

It is estimated that spent fuel produced by China’s pressurized water reactors will add up to 23,500 tonnes by 2030.

Yang Changli, vice general manager of the CNNC, said that the project will ease the pressure of storing spent fuel around 2030, improve safety of spent fuel administration and speed up reactor development.

Chinese reprocessing plant to start up in 2030

WNN | 24 September 2015

The construction of a used fuel processing and recycling facility in China is expected to begin in 2020 and be completed by 2030. The facility will be based on French technology.

China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) and France’s Areva signed an agreement in November 2007 to assess the feasibility of setting up an 800 tonne per year reprocessing plant for used fuel in China. The plant would be operated by Areva.

In November 2010, an industrial agreement on the project was signed, while in April 2013 a further agreement was signed setting out the technical specifications for the plant. Then in March 2014 another agreement was signed to continue planning the project and to complete the business case for it. A memorandum of understanding followed, in June this year,  which Areva said “formalizes the end of technical discussions, defines the schedule for commercial negotiations and confirms the willingness of both groups to finalize the negotiations in the shortest possible timeframe.” The target date for operation of the plant was previously 2025.

At the first meeting of the Sino-French project group, held yesterday in Beijing, CNNC said that it is selecting a site for the facility. Jinta county, north of Jiayuguan in Gansu province, had earlier been touted as a potential site for the complex, which will reportedly occupy three square kilometres.

CNNC said yesterday that construction of the reprocessing facility is now expected to start in 2020 and be completed in 2030.

In addition to the reprocessing plant, the site will also house a used fuel storage facility with the capacity to hold 3000 tonnes of fuel. In addition, a high-level liquid waste vitrification facility is also planned.

Once in operation, the new complex will relieve pressure on the on-site storage of used fuel at nuclear power plants and improve the safety of used fuel management, CNNC said.

According to a report by the Xinhua news agency, some 23,500 tonnes of used fuel will have been generated from China’s pressurized water reactors (PWRS) by 2030.

Technology for recycling uranium recovered from used nuclear fuel from Chinese PWRs for use in the Qinshan Phase III Candu units is being developed.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News

HEU Spent Fuel from Switzerland Arrives at Savannah River Site

HEU Spent Fuel from Switzerland Arrives at Savannah River Site; May be Last Shipment from Switzerland

IPFM Blog | Tom Clements, Director Savannah Site Watch | September 15, 2015

A shipment of highly enriched uranium (HEU) spent fuel from Switzerland has been confirmed to have recently arrived in the United States.

It is believed that the shipment could mark a significant non-proliferation milestone as the cargo may have been the last U.S.-origin HEU remaining in Switzerland. According to the IPFM data and others, Switzerland has possessed less than 10 kilograms of HEU but that holding may have now been eliminated. [UPDATE: Switzerland has been moved to the list of countries cleared of HEU.]

Both the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and the Swiss Government have confirmed the shipment from the AGN-211-P reactor consisted of a single cask holding 13 spent fuel assembles. Neither government has commented on the possibility of this being the last HEU shipment from Switzerland.

The Swiss government confirmed, in an email message of 11 September 2015, the arrival of the spent fuel in the U.S. on 18 August and stated that “in accordance with applicable Swiss law, the shipment had been approved on 24 June 2015 by the competent Swiss authorities.”

The AGN-211-P reactor, which began operation in 1959, is operated as a training and research reactor by the Department of Physics at the University of Basel.

As part of an operation conducted by the NNSA’s M3 Program (formerly Global Threat Reduction Initiative, GTRI), the spent fuel arrived in the port of Charleston, South Carolina on the UK-flagged nuclear transport ship Oceanic Pintail. On arrival, the spent would have been transported directly to DOE’s nearby Savannah River Site, for storage in the cooling basin of the long-shuttered L-Reactor along with other research and medical isotope reactor spent fuel.

The Oceanic Pintail, according to publicly available ship tracking information, departed from the German port of Nordenham on 30 July. The Pintail also carried low enriched uranium spent fuel from the BER II research reactor in Berlin, with 33 assembles being contained in one cask, according to NNSA. More such BER II LEU spent fuel is expected to be transported to SRS in the coming two years.

DOE has not yet finalized long-term disposal plans for the research spent fuel though reprocessing and dry cask storage are being explored. Reprocessing could occur at SRS in the 60-year-old H-Canyon, the operation of which was halted on 11 September due to violation of criticality controls while preparing plutonium oxide.

UPDATE 09/16/15: In a press-release issued today, NNSA confirmed that the shipment was indeed the last HEU in Switzerland and that the country is now HEU free. Switzerland became the 27th country that was cleared of HEU (plus Taiwan for the total of 28). According to NNSA, the shipment included “approximately 2.2 kilogram of U.S.-origin highly enriched uranium” in 13 irradiated fuel elements.

Highly Radioactive Nuclear Waste Leaving the UK to Return to Switzerland, Crossing France

Mining Awareness | 11 Sep 2015

Highly radioactive nuclear waste returning from the Sellafield “reprocessing” facility to Switzerland, by boat, truck and train next week.


Interactive map found here: and here:éaire/

From Réseau “Sortir du nucléaire” (unofficial translation, our own):
A train of Highly Radioactive Nuclear Waste is preparing to cross France!
Press Release of 11 September 2015

As a convoy of Swiss radioactive waste is preparing to cross France from west to east, the network “Sortir du nucléaire” alerts everyone about the risks of these transports and calls for a nuclear exit.

Swiss nuclear waste in transit via France

According to our information, Swiss radioactive waste, stored at Sellafield reprocessing facility (UK) will return to its country of origin next week by passing through France.

The load of nuclear waste should leave England [Barrow-in-Furness] on Sunday and arrive at the port of Cherbourg on Monday, 14 September, then travel [by truck] to the railroad terminal of Valognes (English Channel) [Railway station of La Hague] where it will leave on Wednesday, the 16th, around 3 in the morning, in the direction of Basel. This convoy will have three wagons.

[It will then go to Zwilag in Würenlingen Switzerland. The original shipment to Sellafield was made through the now closed nuclear harbour of Dunkirk in the 1980s or 90s.]

If the train uses the same itinerary as similar convoys, it could pass by Caen, Rouen, Amiens, Reims, Strasbourg and Colmar and arrive in Basel on Wednesday, at the end of the evening. (see the schedule and stages of a previous convoy of Swiss radioactive waste that crossed France in March 2011.

A Transport of High Risks Kept Secret

This new “CASTOR train” contains substances of the same level of danger as those transported by the convoys that circulated between France and Germany in November of 2010 and 2011.,246 It involves the most highly radioactive waste, which comes from the “reprocessing” of nuclear fuel (an activity which pollutes and is useless, as well as having been abandoned by numerous countries). The “Sortir du nucléaire” Network, which has sent several requests for information about the radioactive inventory of the convoy, calls for the radiation measurements, which will be effectuated at its departure, to be rendered public: on earlier transports containing the same material, one could detect radiation from the containers several tens of meters away[1]!

Such convoys are subject to very lax legislation, with extremely elevated regulatory levels [of radiation exposure], which are in contradiction with the basic principles of protection of populations. [2] This thus represents a real risk of irradiation for the railroad workers and the police which accompany it. Additionally, it could possibly cross train stations of densely populated areas at times when they are very crowded[3], showing contempt for the safety of travelers.

Despite the danger of this convoy, no information has been furnished to the elected officials of the communes which will be crossed. In case of an accident, how could they properly manage the situation? Nonetheless, derailments of radioactive convoys have already occurred in the last few years, the last having taken place at Drancy in December of 2013!

Facing the risks of these transports, the European nuclear exit is urgent!

The peregrinations of these nuclear wastes between Great Britain, France and Switzerland illustrates the absurdity of the globalized and high risk nuclear industry, the operation of which imposes the circulation of dangerous radioactive materials throughout all of Europe. A nuclear exit at a European level is urgent in order to stop the production of this unmanageable radioactive waste and to protect citizens. Just as France should close its aging reactors, Switzerland, which has the oldest reactor in the world still in operation, should stop its reactors!

The Network “Sortir du nucléaire” will strive to follow the convoy ( information soon on the page) and calls to organize watches along the journey to denounce the risks of these transports. Philippe Guiter, spokesman for the Network “Sortir du nucléaire”, will be present for a press conference to be held on Monday, September 14th at 19h (7 pm) at the Port of Cherbourg [France] (in front of the exit gate of the industrial area terre-plein des Mielles).
Download letters to authorities:
Mail to the Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN):
Mail to the Institute of Radio-protection and of Nuclear Safety (IRSN):
Mail to the High Official of Defense and of Security of the Ministry of Ecology:
Courrier au transporteur TNI :
Mail to the TNI transporter
Contact :
Philippe Guiter : 06 77 35 53 03
Communications Officer: 06 64 66 01 23


[1] During a similar transport between France and Germany effectuated in November 2011, the radioactivity at 14 metres from the convoy exceeded by several hundreds of times the “normal” level.

[2] As CRIIRAD notes in an email sent in May 2012 to the European Commission, “at these levels of irradiation, a person discussing for half an hour leaning against a transport vehicle would reach, without surpassing, the regulatory limit of 2 mSv/h, receiving a dose of 1 mSv, that is, in 30 minutes the maximum ANNUAL limit fixed for public exposure for all nuclear activities. Ten minutes of time in its presence would suffice to surpass the limit of 0.3 mSv/year defined for the impact of a single nuclear activity”

[3] This was the case in November 2010, when a convoy of highly radioactive German waste crossed the Strasbourg train station on a Saturday around 13 h (1 pm in the afternoon).” French original is found here: (Photo at original)

The information in brackets about location comes from Jean-Yvon Landrac of StopNuclearPower via a mail forwarded to us, and is not found in the original press release.

Additional notes, which are not in Sortir du Nucleaire original, but based on the article at the link for Note 1: “Wie stark strahlt der Castor?” by Sami Skalli, 8. November 2010, “Zeit” online edition, says that at Dannenberg, 14 meters from the Castor containers, neutron radiation was 480 times higher than background. The gamma was 2.3 microsieverts per hour, which they say is 40 times higher than usual [for that area, in some places this may be only around 18 times background, though this is not mentioned in the article] These are within permissible limits according to the German Federal Office for Radiation Protection. Permissible levels for gamma with Castor are 100 microsieverts per hour at two meters from the delivery vehicle. (100 microsieverts per hour gamma is 0.1 millisieverts per hour, compared to US EPA recommendation of 0.25 PER YEAR.)

Neutron radiation protection relies on radiation shielding. Due to the high kinetic energy of neutrons, this radiation is considered to be the most severe and dangerous radiation to the whole body when it is exposed to external radiation sources ]

On page 2 of the CRIIRAD letter, in a footnote, it states that the dose could sometimes even be 10 mSv/h when in contact with the transport vehicle.

Basel 1356 intensity "Seismic Hazard Assessment of Switzerland, 2004", November 2004  Swiss Seismological Service
Basel 1356 intensity “Seismic Hazard Assessment of Switzerland, 2004”, November 2004 Swiss Seismological Service

Note that even though Beznau in Switzerland is called the oldest, there seems to be an even older one still in operation in India.

Contrary to popular belief, Switzerland has not yet exited nuclear power, but is keeping its aging reactors going. The topic is reportedly up for grabs at the current parliamentary session. A recent survey has shown, that with the exception of voters adhering to the right wing people’s party (SVP-UDC), most Swiss are against nuclear. It makes no sense that the SVP is against immigration but for the destruction of the land with an ever-increasing risk of nuclear accident, ongoing radioactive emissions from nuclear reactors, and the transport and burial of nuclear waste. This appears confirmation that SVP is indeed a fascist party, as alleged. Or perhaps it’s a reflection of the low levels of education required in Switzerland (9 years). While it’s difficult to see where tiny, mountainous, Switzerland will stuff more migrants, it is even more difficult to see where they will stuff nuclear waste! Oh, perhaps in mountain bunkers, instead of gold?

India announces plans for starting construction of fast reactor fuel reprocessing plant

IPFM Blog | M V Ramana | September 2, 2015

The Director of India’s Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research has announced that construction of a new fast reactor fuel reprocessing plant is to begin in two months’ time at Kalpakkam in southern India. The plant is to reprocess spent fuel from the Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor (PFBR) that has been under construction at Kalpakkam since 2004.

The reprocessing plant’s cost is estimated at 96 billion Rupees (about 1.45 billion U.S. dollars at current exchange rates). It is said to have a capacity adequate to deal with “the spent fuel of PFBR and also other two fast reactors expected to come up at Kalpakkam”. Based on a neutronic model of the PFBR, this would mean that it should be able to reprocess roughly 27 tons of spent fuel (both core and blanket). However, the plant has only been approved to reprocess spent fuel from the PFBR only (i.e, only one reactor) by the local Pollution Control Board.

The Fast Reactor Fuel Cycle Facility (FRFCF) has been significantly delayed and is currently planned to be commissioned towards the end of 2019. Plans for the facility have been under review by India’s Atomic Energy Regulatory Board from as early as 2004. In September 2007, the Chairman of India’s Atomic Energy Commission announced that a reprocessing plant to deal with the PFBR spent fuel had been planned and that its construction was to commence in 2008. The plant only received approval by the national cabinet in 2013 and, again, the Chairman of India’s Atomic Energy Commission announced that construction was to begin the same year.

Construction of the PFBR has also been significantly delayed from its initial expected start date of September 2010. As of early this year, the reactor was to become critical in September 2015. But last month, the Chairman of India’s Atomic Energy Commission announced that the reactor was yet to receive the necessary clearances from the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board.