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Europe’s secret nuclear waste dumping in Russia revealed


01 December 2005, Le Havre, France — Since 02.00 hours this morning, 20 Greenpeace activists have occupied loading cranes at the French port of Le Havre to prevent 450 tonnes of radioactive uranium waste being loaded onto the Russian freighter the Kapitan Kuroptchev. The activists are occupying cranes on both the dock side and the ship. The waste comes from the Pierrelatte uranium enrichment plant in the Rhone valley and is scheduled to be transported to Russia.

Greenpeace has launched the protest to expose the thirty year old practice of illegally transporting and dumping nuclear wastes produced in Europe and shipped to Russia. 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 power industry has a dirty secret, for decades it has illegally and immorally dumped over 100,000 tonnes of nuclear waste in Russia. This scandalous activity must stop. At every step in the process regulations are being breached and laws broken threatening peoples lives and their environment,” said Shaun Burnie of Greenpeace International.

The nuclear wastes dumped in Russia are of two types: contaminated uranium resulting from reprocessing at the Cogema/Areva facilities at la Hague, Normandy; and depleted uranium (DU) from nuclear fuel enrichment at facilities in France (Eurodif/Areva de Pierrelatte), and the Urenco facilities in Germany (Gronau), the Netherlands (Almelo) and the UK (Capenhurst). These facilities support the day to day operation of 135 nuclear reactors in Europe.

The containers used to transport the uranium waste do not meet current International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) standards and pose a serious risk during the thousands of kilometres journey to the Russian dumpsites, where they are illegally dumped. A large percentage of the waste is in the form of hexafluoride crystals which can react violently to water leading to dispersal of toxic gas, inhalation of which can be fatal.

“The nuclear industry is opting for the cheapest, dirtiest and most dangerous option – dumping in Russia,” said Vladimir Tchuprov of Greenpeace Russia in la Havre. “Russia already has a nuclear waste crisis, and yet EDF, EoN, and all other European nuclear utilities are making the situation worse. Disposal and even storage of foreign nuclear waste in Russia is illegal,” said Tchuprov.

In Russia, Greenpeace has filed a case in the Moscow district court against the Russian government nuclear export company, Tecksnabexport.(3). According to paragraph 3 of article 48 of the federal law of 2001 “On Environmental Protection”, import of nuclear waste and foreign nuclear materials to the Russian Federation for the purpose of its storage or disposal is prohibited. The next hearing of the case will be held on December 8th in Moscow.
Notes to Editor
1 – European utilities dumping uranium wastes in Russia include: OKG – Finland, Vattenfall – Sweden/Europe, EoN and RWE - Germany, Electrabel - Belgium, EPZ - the Netherlands, British Energy - the UK, EDF - France, Iberdola - Spain, and NOK/Swissnuclear - Switzerland,

2 - A contract between Russian Ministry of Atomic Energy (Minatom) from 1992 and the French company Cogema (#54-02/60006) and letter of the RF Nuclear Energy Minister #01-5328 from 29.09.2003.

3 - Greenpeace Russia has filed a complaint against JSC “Tekhsnabexport” for concluding contracts with Eurodif, Urenco, Internexco and GKN which are breaching the Russian Federal law of 2001 ’On Environmental Protection’, one of which dates from 1975.

4 -- Reprocessing spent nuclear fuel creates significant volumes of radioactive uranium. For every 850 tonnes of spent fuel processed at the Areva/Cogema la Hague plant, around 805 tonnes of uranium is produced. For each ton of uranium that is enriched (by concentrating the fissile natural isotope uranium 235) specifically at the three Urenco plants in the Netherlands, Germany, and the UK and the Eurodif/Cogema plant in France, a further seven tonnes of depleted uranium is discarded as waste – either for storage in Europe, or export to Russia.

Further contact information for reporters to get video, photos or report details:
A background briefing is available at Video available from Michael Nagasaka, Greenpeace Video Desk, + 31646166309 Photos available from John Novis, Greenpeace Photo Desk + 31653819121


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