Illegal nuclear waste shipment blocked

Feature story - 1 December, 2005
In a daring 2AM action, twenty Greenpeace activists have blocked the loading of illegal nuclear waste in France.

Radioactive waste is one more reason why nuclear power is not an answer to climate change.

A Russian freighter, the Kapitan Kuroptche, was preparing to transportmore than 450 tons of radioactive uranium waste to Russia when theactivists blocked cranes on the ship and the pier.  The wasteoriginated from the Pierlatte uranium enrichment plant in the RhoneValley. It's part of a thirty-year-old practice of dumping nuclearwastes produced in Europe in Russia, where federal law prohibits theimport of foreign waste.

We're just putting it there for now: honest!

Franceclaims the waste is going to Russia for reprocessing -- the process bywhich plutonium is separated from spent fuel -- but in fact only asmall portion is treated.  In reality, it's simply being put outof sight, out of mind, with no long-term solution for what to do withit on the horizon.  Greenpeace has filed a case in the Moscowdistrict court against the Russian government nuclear export company,Tecksnabexport.  The nuclear industry would prefer these shipmentshappened in secret, as they underscore a key reason why nuclear fuel isnot a viable energy solution, and why nuclear power is not a solutionto climate change.

Vulnerable to attack, dangerously shipped

Butin addition to being illegal, the shipments are also highly dangerous.Shipments between west European ports are regularly transitting throughthe North Sea, Skagarak, the Baltic and the Gulf of Finland beforearriving at St Petersburg.  The shipments are made on general Russian-owned cargo vessels rather than purpose-built ships,despite known hazards and risks. The transportation route goes throughmajor cities such as St Petersburg (5 million population) and Tomsk(0.5 million) and passes the coasts of Belgium, the Netherlands,Denmark, Germany, Sweden, Norway and Finland. An accidental release orterrorist attack could be devastating.

A new report from Greenpeace, " Europe's Radioactive Secret", details the illegal nuclear waste trade between Europe's nuclear industry and the Russian Federation.

The nuclear wastes concerned are of two types: contaminated uraniumresulting from reprocessing at the Cogema/Areva facilities at la Hague,Normandy; and depleted uranium (DU) from nuclear fuel enrichment atfacilities in France, Germany, the Netherlands, and the UK. Thesefacilities support the day-to-day operation of Europe's 135 nuclearreactors.

The containers used to transport the uranium wastedo not meet current International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) standardsand pose a serious risk during the thousands of kilometres journey tothe Russian dump sites, where they are illegally stored or disposed.A large percentage of the waste is in the form of hexafluoride crystalswhich can react violently to water leading to dispersal of toxic gas,inhalation of which can be fatal.

The world urgently needs toshift its energy supply to clean, safe, renewable energy. Delegates meeting in Montreal to discuss the implementation of theKyoto Protocol need to remember that nuclear power is not an answer.

You can help.  Sign up as an Energy Revolutionary and urge the host of the climate summit, Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin, to stand up to the polluters and strengthen the resolve of the countries that want to take real action on global warming.

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