Victory: Cogema guilty of illegal nuclear waste

Feature story - 14 April, 2005
After four years of appeals, the La Hague nuclear plant can now truly be called a nuclear dump - and an illegal one at that. French energy giant Cogema has been ordered to sort out their spent nuclear fuel rods, or end up paying Greenpeace 1500 euros a day.

Greenpeace activists spend the night waiting for the imminent arrival of two nuclear fuel ships from the US to France.

Cogema, a subsidiary of the huge French energy company Areva, has beenillegally importing and storing Australian nuclear waste for the lastfour years. As we tried to tell them way back in 2001, this storage is asource of environmental damage.  Four years of legal wranglinglater, Cogema has now been ordered to pay 10,000 Euros in damages toGreenpeace. "10,000 euros?" you might think.  "Surely that'speanuts to Cogema!"  True - but it's the repercussions of thisdecision that could really make an impact.

Basically, so far the nuclear industry has been able to get away withthe very strange idea that spent nuclear fuel does not constitutenuclear waste.  The admission that the nuclear waste involved inthis case is now admitted to actually be... well, nuclear waste, meansthe whole French policy of waste management  is now at stake.

"This is a major victory," explains Yannick Rousselet, our Frenchnuclear campaigner. "This decision confirms what we have always said:Cogema is illegally importing nuclear waste on French soil. Thisdecision applies today to the Australian waste, but many other types ofwaste are in the same situation, which means the La Hague plant can nowtruly be called a nuclear dump!"

The Court of appeal also ordered Areva to produce an operatingauthorisation for the reprocessing of the Australian waste within threemonths. After this deadline, Cogema will be given two months to removethe waste from France, or pay the unexpected penalty of paying Greenpeace 1500 euros perday.  This decision casts doubt on the fate of all the nuclearwaste stored by Areva, and will hopefully pave the way for more responsibility on the part of the nuclear industry.