Illegal French nuclear waste dump must be removed and decontaminated

Greenpeace files legal challenge against AREVA

Press release - 29 May, 2006
Greenpeace activists from Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Belgium, Japan and France entered the Centre Stockage de la Manche (CSM) nuclear dumpsite at La Hague in Normandy today to demand the removal and decontamination of the dumpsite. At 9.30am this morning, ten activists placed their countries' flags on top of the dumpsite and a further four activists with banners declaring "France: Nuclear Waste Dump climbed onto the roof of the visitors' centre.

Greenpeace activists from Germany, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Belgium, Japan and France entered the Centre Stockage de la Manche (CSM) nuclear dumpsite at La Hague in Normandy, France, to demand the removal and decontamination of the dumpsite. Theactivists placed their countries' flags and banners declaring 'France: Nuclear Waste Dump' on top of the dumpsite.

The activists represent the principal clients of French state reprocessing company AREVA that have disposed of nuclear waste at the CSM (1). An estimated 140,000 containers of nuclear waste disposed at the La Hague dump came from foreign nuclear utilities in Europe and Japan. Under French law, it is illegal to dispose of foreign waste in France. The largest amount of waste at the site was produced by Electricite de France (EDF). Greenpeace is demanding that the 1.4 million containers of waste in the CSM dumpsite be removed and repackaged.

In a further challenge against illegal waste disposal in France, Greenpeace today is to file legal papers against the reprocessing company AREVA in relation to Dutch nuclear waste produced at the La Hague plant. In February this year, Greenpeace obtained an injunction against AREVA that forced the disclosure of its reprocessing contract with the Dutch utility EPZ (2).

Last week, Greenpeace released a study on the radioactive contamination of the underground water and rivers around the CSM Normandy plant (3). The water is used by farmers for their dairy cattle and on their fields. A former senior engineer at the facility has stated that in addition to tritium, other radio-nuclides in the dump, including plutonium, will leak out and given the state of the waste in the dump, it should now be removed.

"This dumpsite is like a nuclear sponge - it soaks in water and squeezes out radiation. Foreign customers from Germany, the Netherlands, Japan, Belgium, Sweden and Switzerland, together with the French utility EdF are directly responsible for irradiating the countryside. It's a dump that should not be there containing material that it is illegal under French law. It is a problem created by them and they need to deal with it urgently," said Shaun Burnie of Greenpeace International.

The protest comes on the eve of a vote at the French Senate on waste disposal, including maintaining the "Law Bataille of 1991", which forbids the disposal of foreign nuclear waste in France. AREVA's operations have led to the reprocessing, storage and disposal of tens of thousands of cubic metres of nuclear waste.

At the same time as the Senate is debating nuclear waste problems, EdF which is responsible for most of the radioactive waste produced in France, is planning to build and operate the new and controversial European Pressurized Reactor (EPR) at nearby Flamanville. If it becomes operational it will add to the problem by producing the highest level radioactive waste of any commercial nuclear reactor in France (4).

The protest and filing of legal papers took place on the day that the site operator ANDRA received the full historical record for the dumpsite. As a result of flooding, a large amount of documentation was destroyed by flooding at least on two occasions during the 1970's. Falsified documents were produced in their place (5).

"France is an undeclared international nuclear dumpsite in violation of its own law, contaminating the environment above safety limits. The French authorities do not have precise information of what is in the dumpsite - how much plutonium, strontium, and other extremely long-lived and dangerous materials. There is no real solution to nuclear waste that will eliminate the threat, but the first step is to stop further illegal waste disposal, and halt the generation of more nuclear waste," said Yannick Rousselet of Greenpeace France.

Greenpeace obtained a final victory in the Supreme Court in Paris in December 2005, when AREVA, was found guilty of illegally importing and storing Australian nuclear waste.

Other contacts: Shaun Burnie, Greenpeace International nuclear campaigner, +31 629 00 1133 Yannick Rousselet, Greenpeace France nuclear campaigner, +33 685806559Mhairi Dunlop, Greenpeace International Communications, +44 7801 212 960

VVPR info: Stills available from +31 653 819 255Video information available from +33 168 454 7758

Notes: 1- The CSM site was opened in 1969 and closed in 1994. In total the volume of waste in the CSM dumpsite is estimated at 527,000 cubic meters. The foreign utilities with waste illegally stored at the dump include: EoN, RWE, (Germany); Electrabel (Belgium); NOK (Switzerland); EPZ (the Netherlands); and Tokyo Electric, Kansai Electric (Japan).2 - The ACRO report, 'Nuclear Waste Management: the lessons from the CSM Disposal Site, May 23rd 2006, contains extensive analysis of the condition of the CSM site, and measurements of radioactivity on the La Hague peninsula - available at and - The contract between Cogema (AREVA) and EPZ, together with details of the legal case available upon request. The legal papers will be filed in the Cherbourg district court.4 - It is planned the reactor will operate at very high burn up - the fuel remains in the reactor longer - and up to 50% of the fuel will be plutonium mixed oxide - MOX. The so-called public enquiry on the construction of the reactor is due to begin on June 15th - lasting only 6 weeks.5 - It was confirmed by the former ANDRA engineer that in addition to flooding, documentation was destroyed by an infestation of mice, in particular the records related to alpha contamination (including plutonium content).

Exp. contact date: 2006-06-10 00:00:00