Agence France Presse English
LONDON - Two ships carrying a total of 446 kilogrammes of plutonium fuel are set to leave France and Britain for Japan next week, the environmental group Greenpeace said on Thursday.
Greenpeace said its ship Rainbow Warrior, currently being fitted out in Britain for the crossing to the French port of Cherbourg on Saturday, would be sent to out to meet them.
The organisation opposes the naval transport of radioactive waste on safety grounds.
Two British-flagged vessels, the Pacific Pintail and the Pacific Teal, will carry the plutonium, which has been combined with uranium to form mixed oxide (MOX) or plutonium fuel, said Greenpeace.
Part of the nuclear cargo will be loaded at Cherbourg, on the north coast of France; the rest at Barrow-in-Furness, off the north-west coast of England.
The boats could leave any time in the week beginning July 12, meeting off the French Atlantic coast for the 20,000-mile trip, the group said.
They would sail without a military escort along a secret route.
Both boats had recently been equipped with 30mm guns and would take responsibility for each others' safety. A security force of 26 officers from the UK Atomic Energy Authority would be on board, said Greenpeace.
Kansai Electric announced mid-June that a naval convoy would be organised towards the end of the year under armed guard.
The nuclear substance is destined for two Japanese companies, Kansai Electric Power Company (KEPCO) and Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) and will for the first time be used to run a nuclear power station there.
The French company COGEMA signed contracts with ten Japanese electricity companies in 1977 for the reprocessing and return of nuclear waste.
by Dennis Bueckert
Canada's only fusion laboratory, built with an estimated $150 million in public money, is for sale at fire-sale prices -- and Iran is the most likely buyer.
The dismantling of the Canadian Centre for Fusion Magnetics at Varennes, Quebec, marks the end of Canada's participation in the international quest for fusion, which many scientists see as the energy source of the future.
"We have lost our foothold in fusion research," said Real Decoste, director of the centre, who confirmed Wednesday that negotiations with the Iranians are nearing the final stages.
The sale will leave Canada as the only major industrial country with no fusion research capability.
Decoste said in an interview the laboratory was effectively killed in 1996 when the federal government pulled out of the project, leaving its partners, including several agencies of the Quebec government, in disarray. "When the feds pulled out, that was it. So we lost it all, it was the domino effect."
Most of the staff, including about 40 researchers and 60 highly skilled engineers, have already dispersed. "The young scientists have left the country, the older guys have retired, and the guys in the middle are scrambling around having to reorient their career into something else," said Decoste.
The amount obtained from the sale will be only a fraction of what was originally invested. "We're selling for 10 cents on a dollar or something like that."
Richard Bolton, former director of the laboratory, blamed the closure on Justice Minister Anne McLellan, who held the energy and natural resources portfolio in 1996 when Ottawa withdrew its funding. "It was a really stupid federal decision," said Bolton, who is now retired. "People ask me how it was ever taken and my answer is always the same. The minister involved is a lawyer from the oil patch."
The Natural Resources Department referred questions about the proposed sale to Foreign Affairs. Sean Rowan, a spokesperson for Foreign Affairs, said the sale requires several types of federal approval, and no export of militarily sensitive equipment to Iran will be permitted. Rowan said consideration of the export application is in the early stages.
Murray Stewart, president of the Canadian Nuclear Association, said the fusion equipment is incapable of being diverted to military purposes. Most of the processes involved have been in the public domain for years, he added.
"It doesn't raise any proliferation issues."
Stewart said Iran has a long-standing, non-military, commercial nuclear program and its interest in the project is not as surprising as some might think.
But he said the dismantling of the lab is unfortunate because Canada is losing a unique scientific capability.
Decoste said it would not be difficult to find other buyers, but the Iranians are viewed favourably because they are committed to continuing the research. "Those guys are not buying only equipment. They are buying a program. They are buying our souls, actually."
Fusion, based on fusing light nucleii such as hydrogen isotopes to release energy, offers the potential of almost limitless clean energy. The process is similar to that which powers the sun and other stars.
Many scientists believe fusion remains the only plausible energy source for the middle of the next century, especially in view of mounting concern about the greenhouse effect, which is mainly caused by the burning of fossil fuels.
"I'm sure that fusion is going to work, although not tomorrow," said Decoste. "It's a matter of time. Let's keep adding nice summers like we have right now. People are starting to get a feel for what it means, this greenhouse effect.
"That's only the first stage of it. You haven't seen nothing yet, of what's coming up. And after that we're going to run out of oil. So where are we heading? It's just a matter of time. It's like the ad says, 'You can pay me now or later.'"
Agence France Presse English
SYDNEY - Angry conservationists and Aborigines vowed Tuesday to step up opposition to uranium mining in a renowned wilderness park after Australia won a major battle to prevent it being listed as endangered.
The government and mining company Energy Resources Australia (ERA) Ltd. hailed the ruling by UNESCO's World Heritage Committee as a logical one which underscored Australia's commitment to protecting national assets.
ERA shares jumped more than eight percent in early trade, rising 16 cents to 2.04 dollars, following the decision which paves the way for the continued development of the new 3.8 billion dollar (2.5 billion US) Jabiluka mine.
The committee ruled against placing the World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park on its "in danger" list after accepting assurances the mine would neither harm its environment nor endanger sacred Aboriginal sites.
It had been the target of protests by the Mirrar aboriginal tribe, traditional owners of the land, who claim they were duped into giving approval for the mine.
The committee decision, announced in Paris, drew immediate condemnation from anti-government politicians, aboriginal leaders and conservationists who described the mine as "an abomination" that must be stopped.
"We are very disappointed with the decision by the committee that followed intense political pressure from Australia," said Don Henry, executive director of the Australia Conservation Foundation.
"One of the conditions the committee has put on this is that they want to revisit this issue in a year's time and particularly look at what Australia is doing about protecting natural environment and culture.
"So there is time to stop Jabiluka and save Kakadu and we are now going to increase our corporate campaigning activity, also our legal campaigns. There is a challenge currently underway to the legal validity of the approval processes.
"It's really time for the mums and dads to come out of the kitchens and add their voices to make sure we can stop this abomination in one of our great world heritage sites."
Jacqui Katona, a spokeswoman for the Mirrar people said at least the traditional owners now had an opportunity to show why the mine should be stopped and she remained confident they could show the project was incompatible with the cultural values of Kakadu.
Times Colonist (Victoria)
by Susan Danard
A Canadian frigate fired a torpedo as a pre-emptive shot in the public relations war over the Nanoose Bay military test range Wednesday. Public hearings into the federal government's proposed expropriation of the province-owned seabed begin next week in Nanaimo.
To show the public how valuable the site is to the U.S. and Canadian navies, about 160 guests were invited aboard HMCS Ottawa for a trip to the range Wednesday.
Guests were treated to two-hour tours of the patrol frigate and a hot lunch and cold drinks, including beer. The visitors -- mostly media, federal government workers and a handful of municipal politicians -- also watched the crew engage in combat training.
Highlights of the day included the firing of a torpedo from the ship and anti-submarine manoeuvres involving a Sea King helicopter.
"The fact of the matter is we have a very wide proliferation of conventional submarines in the world. This is a capacity that is essential for our navy to have," said Rear Admiral Ron Buck, commander of Maritime Forces Pacific, who hosted the event.
Should the Canadian navy lose access to the test range, "the only other option would be to do it in the Atlantic, which would be so cost prohibitive (for the Pacific maritime forces), we wouldn't do it," Buck said.
B.C.'s negotiations with Ottawa for a new lease agreement broke down in May after the provincial government demanded that no nuclear warheads be allowed on the site.
Ottawa is also fed up with B.C.'s threats to shut down the base, a bargaining chip in Canada-U.S. salmon disputes.
Commander Gord Buckingham, in charge of the test range, said nuclear warheads are a non-issue, since the class of U.S. vessels that use the range typically don't carry nuclear weapons and nuclear warheads are never tested at the range. Conventional torpedoes discharged at the site are unarmed and retrieved after the exercise.
A 1996 environmental assessment showed that "our impact on the environment is negligible. You can hardly measure it," Buckingham said.
Since the range opened in 1965, about 31,000 torpedoes have been fired at the site. The range is ideal for testing torpedoes since it is not too deep and has a soft, muddy bottom, making it easy to retrieve torpedoes.
With a permanent staff of 57 Canadians and six Americans, the range generates $6 million to $8 million worth of economic activity annually in the region, according to the Department of National Defence. That includes salaries, contracts, supplies and money spent by visiting sailors.
The navy has also provided valuable search and rescue help on the water, said George Holmes, chairman of the Regional District of Nanaimo. "They've saved hundreds of lives over the years." Holmes supports the expropriation bid to bolster Canada's defence efforts. "As long as there are people like Saddam Hussein and (Slobodan) Milosevic in the world, we still have to be prepared to defend ourselves."
Nanaimo Councillor Blake McGuffie said concerns about a nuclear accident at the site are blown out of proportion. "I have confidence in the military's ability to run the base in a safe and responsible manner . . . . I think what you have is an extremely small and an extremely vocal group who have concerns. I tend to characterize them as Protest Incorporated."
Youth on the tour were equally supportive of the range. Nanoose Bay resident Lisa Phillips, 17, said she doesn't have any concerns about living near the testing. "I think it's really neat all the equipment and technology they have. . . . I think the guys down there really know what they're doing."
Agence France Presse English
BEIJING - China Thursday lifted the veil on its normally secretive nuclear weapons progam claiming its own scientists had developed a neutron bomb and related technology to refute US allegations of stealing weapons secrets.
The State Council, China's cabinet, issued a 43-page report offering a point-by-point rebuttal of US allegations outlined in the Cox report -- the culmination of an 11-month probe by a special congressional investigative panel led by Republican Representative Christopher Cox.
The following is a step-by-step break down of China's refutation:
ON NUCLEAR TECHNOLOGY
: China stole information on seven US nuclear warheads
Beijing's reply: such information is openly available on the Internet, with 100 articles about the principle and structure of the neutron bomb found
Beijing's reply: the codes mentioned are widely used codes for nuclear reactor engineering design and circulate among research institutes and universities of member countries of the International Atomic Energy Agency
Beijing's reply: Chinese scientist began researching one-beam laser technology in 1973 and produced neutrons in 1986. Between 1990-92 a thermonuclear fusion reaction was achieved through the method of indirect driving and thermonuclear neutron was observed. In the late 1970s and early 1980s China manufactured its own laser device for research into laser-based nuclear fusion.
Beijing's reply: Such exchanges were approved and carried out under supervision by both governments and strictly limited to the scope of nuclear proliferation prevention, arms control and environmental issues.
Beijing's reply: China began developing satellite launch technology in the 1970s when Western countries banned high tech exports to China. More than 40 satellites have been successfully launched since 1970, with China beginning to launch US-made satellites only in 1990.
Beijing's reply: Qian lost his security clearance to work on secret research in 1950, while the Titan progam was determined in 1953 and development contracts only signed in 1955.
Beijing's reply: Missile technology capable of achieving pinpoint accuracy is much more sophisticated than satellite launch technology, therefore it was unreasonable to accuse China of stealing US satellite launch technology to improve its missiles.
Beijing's reply: The designs of a rocket and missile fairing are different and a rocket fairing design cannot be used to upgrade a missile fairing.
Beijing's reply: Extensive security regulations were in place and monitored around the clock by US government inspectors who reported no Chinese thefts or breaches of security during some 20 commercial satellite launches since 1990.
Beijing's reply: Such accusations are "typical racial discrimination" and "the reappearance of McCarthyism."
Beijing's reply: The program's gene research plan was clearly designed for developing new medicines, while the plan to develop a high-temperature gas-cooled reactor was basic research for nuclear energy.
- The menace at Nanoose torpedo range is very real.
Times Colonist (Victoria)
As we approach the Nanoose Bay seabed expropriation hearings, the citizens of this province should look more closely at who wins and who loses if the federal government's plans go ahead.
Canada is a country at peace with the world, yet our federal government is actively defending a serious military threat to the environment and health of British Columbians.
Since 1965 the U.S. navy's underwater warfare research centre has maintained what its website refers to as its "fleet testing and logistics site" at Nanoose Bay. Although the official name is the Canadian Forces Maritime and Experimental Test Ranges, the primary function of this site is to provide a torpedo test range for nuclear-powered, nuclear weapons-capable U.S. submarines. The soft seabed allows them to retrieve their expensive torpedoes undamaged.
According to data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, from 1990 to 1996 U.S. nuclear submarines visited the facility 33 times, firing more than 4,600 torpedoes. On three occasions Nanoose welcomed a giant U.S. ballistic missile submarine, capable of launching up to 192 nuclear warheads to targets almost anywhere in the world.
The fact is some very serious dangers are posed to the citizens of B.C. by the continued operation of this U.S. nuclear submarine test range. First, these submarines may carry nuclear weapons into B.C. waters. If they do, the Canadian public will not be informed, as it has long been U.S. navy policy to "neither conform nor deny" the presence of nuclear weapons on their ships.
Second, all current U.S. navy submarines are nuclear powered. Unlike civilian nuclear reactors, they use bomb-grade uranium as fuel. At least eight times since the first U.S. nuclear submarine was built, there have been serious accidents, and the U.S. navy still refuses to divulge complete information on radiation released into the environment. Even routine operations with these reactors are inherently risky. In the words of one former U.S. submariner, "a reactor scram [emergency shutdown] is always an exciting drill, because once you start it, it's no longer an exercise."
A University of California study has concluded that a fire involving nuclear weapons or a reactor accident could cause thousands of fatalities. As at Chernobyl, a serious accident could release a witch's brew of radioactivity.
Even Canada's Department of National Defence acknowledges that in the event of an accident some residents in the area would suffer acute radiation sickness, and of course cancer rates would soar even for those less heavily exposed.
The same DND report acknowledged that emergency response preparations at Nanoose were "marginal or unsatisfactory" in some areas, and last year Canada's Auditor General noted that most of his concerns expressed in his 1992 report on nuclear emergency preparedness had not been addressed. (While a Canadian navy spokesperson has stated the likelihood of a serious nuclear accident is "tiny", it might be worth noting that five of the eight technicians on duty at the time of the Three Mile Island accident were U.S. navy trained.)
Finally, nuclear submarine traffic up and down the B.C. coast poses a considerable threat to navigation. Submarines frequently collide with or snag surface vessels. Submarines have difficulty detecting small surface ships. Subs ride low in the water when surfaced and are coated with materials that do not reflect radar. Submerged, they are virtually undetectable, and are nearly "blind" in confined waters because they rely on passive sonar.
During the making of The Hunt for Red October, a U.S. submarine accidentally snagged a towboat, sinking it with loss of life. Closer to home, in 1994 a German-built Chilean submarine on its way back from testing torpedoes at Nanoose collided with and sank the B.C. sailboat Moonglow, nearly drowning its owner, Jory Lord. This collision happened even though the Moonglow was using full running lights, radar and a foghorn, and the modern, high-tech submarine was deploying radar reflectors and had an American officer aboard. Given the rapidly growing pleasure boat traffic in Georgia Strait, such accidents may occur with even greater frequency in the future.
The Americans are very eager to continue operating the Nanoose test range, as they gain considerable benefit from it. But it is reasonable to ask what Canadian interests are served by the continued operation of the Nanoose base.
Michael Wallace is professor of political science at the University of British Columbia, who has been working on nuclear issues for more than 30 years.
- Pickering reactors must be assessed before they can be restarted.
A federal environmental assessment will have to be completed before Ontario Power Generation can restart the four nuclear reactors at the Pickering generating station, the Atomic Energy Control Board has confirmed.
But critics of Ontario's nuclear program say the level of assessment under federal law falls short of what is needed to ensure the safety of the oldest nuclear facility in the province.
Irene Kock of the Durham-based Nuclear Awareness Project said the assessment is inadequate and that a review with open public hearings should be held. "We feel the Pickering station is too old and ideally should be closed forever," Kock said. At the very least, she said, there should be a more in-depth review of its safety before the reactors are allowed to produce electricity again.
Robert Leblanc of the Atomic Energy Control Board said Tuesday the public will be given an opportunity to comment on the screening assessment when it is completed. The public will also have a chance to appear before the board when the application to restart the Pickering plant is made.
Brian MacTavish, senior Ontario Power Generation vice-president for nuclear support services, said Tuesday he welcomed the " clarification" from the federal regulators and that it would be fully complied with. He added that the original start-up date of June 2000 for the first of four units at Pickering will likely be delayed for a variety of reasons, one of which could be the environmental assessment.
The Pickering A station has been shut down since December 1997, after a review found the nuclear program was operating at minimally acceptable levels.
- India's success at developing indigenous nuclear power and bombs.
It is quite likely that India's achievement of complete success in developing all ends of the nuclear fuel system both for generation of power and for the production of a credible nuclear deterrent still remains unnoticed because of the veil of secrecy thrown on it by considerations of national security.
The most significant aspect of India's record is that both the generation of nuclear power and the underground explosions of nuclear devices at Pokhran in 1974 and in 1998 resulted from a wholly indigenous effort.
Though, as it should have been expected, the Pokhran explosions, especially the second one, invited a lot of worldwide attention, it is generally not known that setting off an uncontrolled explosion of a nuclear bomb is much easier than the controlled release of energy in atomic power plants. The difference is between triggering a fusillade from a gun and a carefully-regulated discharge from a dynamo. A measure of the achievement of India's nuclear scientists could be had from the skill they had brought to the latter.
The effectiveness of nuclear power generators is determined by the precisely-dimensioned fuel elements arranged in a geometric lattice in the reactor core for closely controlling nuclear reactivity and the extraction of the fission heat by the circulating coolant. In exploding nuclear devices, wholly different requirements govern reactivity.
The decision taken by the Atomic Energy Commission to fabricate half the initial charge of uranium fuel elements for the Canada-India reactor project [CIRUS] in India, instead of taking advantage of the Canadian offer to supply its entire fuel requirement, was the earliest indication of the confidence of the Indian scientists to be able to take up the most challenging job they would ever have faced. It involved the vacuum melting of the uranium ingots supplied by the uranium metal plant, hot rolling of the billet which had to be cast for obtaining uranium rods in the required length and diameter.
Since it would not have been wise to depend upon external supplies of any of the materials and components required for the building up of a nuclear power generation complex even if the supplies could be negotiated, self-reliance became inescapable for the successful execution of India's nuclear programme. The non-availability of enriched uranium led to the Tarapur Atomic Power Station having to do with mixed uranium-plutonium oxide fuel for which technology was developed indigenously.
The emphasis again was on self-reliance in building up the Rajasthan Atomic Power Station, for which half the initial requirement of the fuel bundles was fabricated in the country.
The successful handling by India's nuclear scientists of the complexity of every operation which has to be gone through before the setting up of an atomic power station is completed has made it possible for them to dot the country with quite a few nuclear power generation complexes. It should, however, not be forgotten that the maintenance and operation of the nuclear power stations call for an unrelenting vigilance, warnings having already come from Three Mile Island and Chernobyl.
Recurring and disquieting reports of radiation from some of the [Indian] nuclear power stations should not be dismissed lightly. There is also no unanimity of opinion on the operational efficiency of nuclear generation and its being more economical [than other forms of energy generation], as well as on matters relating to safety, all of which will have to be thoroughly assessed before decisions are taken on the projects now on the anvil.
- China shelves plans for nuclear plants ~ invests in wind power.
China's nuclear power programme has been put on hold, at least for the next three years. A slowing economy and the resulting weak demand for new capacity are being blamed.
Energy officials hinted at a moratorium on nuclear construction last month, providing further evidence that China had not escaped the slump which has seized the once burgeoning "tiger" economies elsewhere in the Asian region.
The move is proof, too, that the rapid build-up of conventional power stations in the last decade has transformed the Chinese energy sector, from a nation at the mercy of electricity shortages to one of overcapacity in some industrial areas. News of the moratorium predated the bombing by mistake of China's Belgrade embassy by NATO jets, an affair that was widely expected to worsen trade with the West.
Before the bombing, China's State Development Planning Commission had been working towards producing a nuclear power development plan, whose purpose would be to boost the country's nuclear power generating capacity to 20 GW by 2010, and double that figure by 2020. Nuclear power would then account for 5 per cent of the country's total installed power production capacity.
Currently, only 1 per cent of China's electricity is generated at nuclear stations, at Qinshan in Zhejiang Province, and Daya Bay in the southern province of Guangdong, although it is estimated that this will climb to 3 per cent in 2006 when plants which are currently under construction at Qinshan, Ling'ao and Lianyungang are commissioned. The Chinese government has earmarked Shandong, Fujian, Hainan, Jiangxi, Hunan, Hubei and Sichuan for future nuclear development.
The higher costs associated with nuclear plant are another reason cited for the moratorium. But despite the slow-down in the nuclear power programme in the country, Chinese sources before the embassy bombing in Belgrade were stressing the suspension was temporary. Shen Wenquan, a director of the nuclear power department under the China Nuclear Industry Corp.
is quoted as having said at the recent International Nuclear Power Industry Exhibition in Shanghai: "This does not mean bleak prospects for nuclear power development in China. Both domestic and overseas investors should not lose sight of a great potential market demand for nuclear power".
Last month, however, industry watchers were hoping for an early restoration of calm following the Belgrade bombing, in the hope that the political fall-out arising from the incident would not irrevocably harm western trade prospects, including the sale of nuclear technology once the moratorium is lifted in the country. Immediately after the incident came news that a German business delegation which had planned to accompany chancellor Gerhard Schroder on his mission to China had cancelled, and Schröder's trip was curtailed. Germany is China's biggest trade partner in Europe.
The bombing drew a profoundly apologetic response from Washington, and there was speculation there that negotiations over China's membership of the World Trade Organisation would be used as a bargaining tool in the battle to restore trade to previous levels.
China has announced it is to build a large wind farm, a 63.6 MW facility in Dabancheng, in the north west Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. It will cover an area of 1600 km and will adjoin an existing 100 MW wind farm.
- British plutonium fuel ships are armed: first time since WWII.
BBC News Online
LONDON: Two British ships carrying enough [plutonium] fuel to build 60 nuclear bombs are to set sail for Japan armed with naval cannons.
Environment groups say the voyage is too risky, while the crews are reported to have asked for danger money.
"It marks the start of a dangerous new phase in the nuclear industry," said environmental group Greenpeace.
It is the first time British merchant ships have been armed since World War II, and it is the first shipment of direct-use nuclear weapons material since 1992.
The Pacific Pintail and Pacific Teal, currently docked in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, are carrying [MOX fuel made of] reprocessed plutonium and uranium, and could leave as early as next week.
Each ship has been fitted with three 30mm cannon at a total cost of £8m. It will avoid the need for an even more expensive naval escort.
BBC correspondent Tom Heal says the ship's crew, who wanted an escort, are asking for danger money to compensate for what they say is the increased risk.
Simon Boxer, of Greenpeace International, says the voyage could face severe problems.
"You could have rogue states, perhaps even terrorist groups, who might be interested in this shipment.
"There are obviously the safety risks with transporting half a ton of plutonium with seven tons of munitions on each of the freighters."
The Oxford Research Group think-tank has also expressed concern.
Their spokesman Frank Barnaby said: "The security provided is totally inadequte for transporting about half a tonne of plutonium halfway round the world."
British Nuclear Fuels Ltd (BNFL) said security fully satisfied a US-Japan nuclear pact, and the UK authorities were also happy with the arrangement.
BNFL's Head of Transport Alasdair Thomas told the BBC the armaments conformed to regulations but would not say whether it made the ships safer than with a naval escort.
Officers from the UK Atomic Energy Agency Police will man the guns.
If the voyage proves uneventful, at least 80 plutonium shipments will take place over the next decade.
The exact route of the ship will remain a secret to prevent an attack by pirates or "rogue countries" which may want its nuclear bounty.
- Court blocks Greenpeace as nuclear fuel starts Japanese journey.
Agence France Presse (English)
VALOGNES, France, July 13 (AFP) - A shipment of recycled nuclear waste to fuel Japanese power stations begain its journey late Thursday, as a French court barred Greenpeace from interfering with the load.
The uranium and plutonium fuel known as MOX left the reprocessing plant at La Hague, on the tip of the northern Cotentin peninsula, under heavy police escort.
It headed for the rail terminal at nearby Armanville, to be loaded on to a train for the port of Cherbourg and eventually transferred to a specially equipped container vessel for Japan.
The Greenpeace ecological movement, which had vowed to oppose the shipment of MOX, made no attempt to intervene.
Earlier a court in Cherbourg sitting in emergency session issued an injunction barring any member of Greenpeace from approaching within 100 metres (yards) of the consignment.
The order, laying down penalties of 100,000 francs (15,000 dollars) for every infringement, was issued at the request of Transnucleaire, the subsidiary of the French nuclear fuel company COGEMA responsible for its transport.
The injunction, valid until July 30 at midnight, followed an attempt by Greenpeace at the weekend to prevent the shipment by occupying dockside cranes at Cherbourg.
Late Monday police were still holding 11 activists who took over the cranes on Sunday but were forced down within hours by a special police intervention unit.
Their presence on the cranes could have prevented COGEMA from loading the fuel on to the container ship, that will head for Japan "before the end of July," the company said Friday.
Another ship is to leave for Japan from Barrow-in-Furness, northwest England, and the two will join up at sea for the voyage by an undisclosed route.
Greenpeace, which warned Saturday that the ships contained enough nuclear fuel aboard to make 60 nuclear bombs, fears they will set sail as early as Thursday.
"If a government or paramilitary force seizes this cargo it could have a nuclear weapon within three weeks," spokesman Jean-Luc Thierry said Saturday.
Greenpeace has also charged that security measures were inadequate, as the two freighters would travel without naval escort.
The group said the two vessels had been recently fitted with three 30mm cannon each and were expected to protect each other against potential attack.
A security force of 26 officers from the British Atomic Energy Agency Constabulary, who normally patrol British nuclear facilities, will also be aboard.
Greenpeace also said that in Japan the plutonium fuel would be loaded into conventional nuclear power reactors operated by Kansai Electric Power Company (KEPCO) at Takahama and Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) at Fukushima.
"These reactors were never designed to use this type of fuel and it will reduce their operating safety margins," Greenpeace said.
- Eleven held after Greenpeace protest against shipping plutonium.
Agence France Presse (English)
CHERBOURG, France - French police Monday were holding 11 Greenpeace activists who occupied two cranes in this northwestern port in a bid to delay the departure of two ships loaded with recycled nuclear waste for Japan.
Of the 11 held, four were French, two German, four Dutch and one Belgian.
Six climbers Sunday hoisted themselves aboard a gantry crane used by the French nuclear fuel company COGEMA, while five others slid up another, conventional crane.
The activists anchored themselves to the structure of the cranes but in two operations, at 9:30 and 11:30 p.m. (1930 and 2130 GMT), a 15-strong specialist police unit scaled the structures and forced down the protestors one by one.
Their presence on the cranes could have prevented COGEMA from loading recyled plutonium and uranium onto a container ship that will head for Japan "before the end of July," the company said Friday.
Another ship was to leave for Japan from Barrow-in-Furness, northwest England.
Greenpeace, which warned Saturday that the ships contained enough nuclear fuel aboard to make 60 nuclear bombs, fears the ships will set sail as early as Thursday and has vowed to prevent the shipment.
"If a government or paramilitary force seizes this cargo it could have a nuclear weapon within three weeks," spokesman Jean-Luc Thierry said Saturday.
Greenpeace has also charged that security measures were inadequate, as the two freighters would rendezvous on the high seas and travel in convoy but without naval escort.
COGEMA signed contracts with 10 Japanese electricity companies in 1977 for the reprocessing and return of nuclear waste.
Jean-Louis Ricaud, director of COGEMA's recycling division, told reporters that "all safety measures put into effect have been spelled out in a transport plan submitted to US authorities who deemed them to be appropriate."
US authorities have an interest in the shipment because most of the original uranium fuel comes from the United States, Greenpeace said in a statement on its website (www.greenpeace.org).
The group said the two vessels had been recently fitted with three 30mm cannon each and were expected to protect each other against potential attack. A security force of 26 officers from the British Atomic Energy Agency Constabulary, who normally patrol British nuclear facilities, will also be aboard.
Greenpeace also said that in Japan the plutonium fuel would be loaded into conventional nuclear power reactors operated by Kansai Electric Power Company (KEPCO) at Takahama and Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) at Fukushima.
"These reactors were never designed to use this type of fuel and it will reduce their operating safety margins," Greenpeace said.
- Greenpeace protests first stage of plutonium shipment to Japan.
LONDON - Amid heavy police and naval security, Greenpeace activists protested the departure of the freighter "Pacific Teal" as it left the port of Barrow in north-west England bound for Cherbourg, France early this morning (Monday). This is the initial stage in the first commercial shipment of nuclear weapons-usable plutonium fuel to Japan, and could lead to a further 80 shipments over the next decade.
At around 2:30 am Monday, a large white elephant excreting nuclear bombs was towed in front of the lock gates at the mouth of the Barrow port. The white elephant, mounted on a rigid banner on a raft, symbolises the waste of millions of pounds in taxpayers' money on the proposed expansion of the British nuclear reprocessing industry and its dangerous plutonium trade with Japan. Meanwhile, twelve activists in two inflatables carried banners saying "Stop Plutonium".
At around 3 am police began arresting the activists on the raft and in the inflatable boats. There were some 50 police in full riot gear on the Barrow dock and UK Atomic Energy Agency police officers armed with machine guns were aboard the "Pacific Teal". A British navy frigate was shadowing the vessel MV Greenpeace.
The Pacific Teal is heading for Cherbourg in France where it will be loaded with 32 plutonium fuel (MOX) elements containing 221 kg of plutonium from the La Hague nuclear reprocessing plant. In Cherbourg, Cogema's final preparations for the loading of four plutonium fuel casks on to the Teal continued last night (Sunday evening). At about 8 pm local time a convoy of armed police escorted by a helicopter and security personnel including anti-terrorist police escorted three trucks, believed to be carrying plutonium casks, left the COGEMA railyard at Valognes, 30 km from Cherbourg. Passing through local villages and towns the convoy entered the seaside town of Cherbourg and entered the COGEMA dock at about 10 pm.
A second vessel, the Pacific Pintail, remains in Barrow where it will be loaded with eight plutonium fuel elements containing 225 kg of plutonium from Britain Nuclear Fuels Ltd (BNFL)'s Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant. The combined cargo of the two vessels will contain 446 kg of plutonium, enough to build 60 nuclear bombs -- more than those in India's nuclear weapons programme
Greenpeace nuclear campaigner MikeTownsley, on board the MV Greenpeace, said:
"The white elephant symbolises the folly of the plutonium industry, which has produced dangerous stockpiles of bomb-usable-plutonium, cost the taxpayer billions of dollars, and contaminates the environment with radioactivity. Yet when the industry should be concentrating on making this deadly legacy safe for future generations it is embarking on a new and dangerous expansion with these shipments of plutonium fuel."
The industry's plans to burn plutonium in fast-breeder reactors have failed. It is now attempting to justify continued reprocessing at Sellafield by the dangerous and uneconomic practise of selling plutonium fuel (MOX) for use in conventional nuclear power reactors, for which they were never originally designed.
"Britain and France, with the approval of the US government, will be fatally undermining international efforts to stop the spread of nuclear weapons by supplying nuclear weapons-usable plutonium to Japan, which is in one of the most politically volatile regions in the world," said Townsley. "The departure of these ships for Japan leaves the UK government's much vaunted 'ethical foreign policy' in tatters."
Participating in the protest was Korean Federation of Environmental Movements representative Nam-hee Kwon.
"These transports threaten the Korean environment as they pass through the East Sea and risk creating further nuclear proliferation in Asia. I am here to show the Korean people's strong will to demand that Japan cancel this peace-breaking shipment."
The two British-flagged vessels are expected to rendezvous at sea, off the French Atlantic coast, and continue together on the 20,000 mile voyage to Japan without naval escort along a still secret route. They are owned by Pacific Nuclear Transport Limited (PNTL) but operated "on government service" to the UK.
Instead of a military escort, the two vessels have recently been fitted with three 30 mm cannon each and are expected to protect each other against potential attack.
Plutonium is separated from Japanese nuclear waste fuel by BNFL at Sellafield, and the fuel on board the Pacific Pintail was fabricated at a pilot facility at the plant. BNFL hopes that a successful shipment to Japan will help persuade the UK Government to grant approval for a completed, but not yet operating, large-scale MOX fabrication plant at Sellafield. Currently, the facility has contracts for less than seven percent of its 20-year lifetime capacity, underlining the lack of economic viability of the industry as the income from this throughput would not cover either the plant's construction costs or its decommissioning costs.
In Japan the plutonium fuel will be loaded into conventional nuclear power reactors operated by Kansai Electric Power Company (KEPCO) at Takahama and Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) at Fukushima. These reactors were never designed to use this type of MOX fuel and it will reduce their operating safety margins. 
Greenpeace is calling on the UK Government to:
Greenpeace Press Office
+44 -171-865 8255/6/7/8 or +31 6 53504731
or Mike Townsley and John Sauven on board
the MV Greenpeace on +0411 607 597
or Irish activist John Bowler on board
the M/V Greenpeace: +353-87-2547836 or + 353 87 239 46 92.
Note to editors:
Concerns about the safety of reactors burning MOX have been heightened in recent days following two accidents at nuclear power plants in Japan.
An accident involving the leakage of primary coolant occurred at the Takahama nuclear power plant's no.4 reactor on July 4. The Takahama plant, operated by the Kansai Electric Company (KEPCO), is one of the facilities which will be loaded with plutonium fuel (MOX) fabricated at Sellafield and shipped to Japan on the Pacific Pintail.
On Monday (July 12) the Japan Atomic Power company (JAPCO) said that it had manually shut down the No.2 reactor at its Tsuruga nuclear power station due to a leak of primary coolant water, according to reports from Reuters, Kyodo and Associated Press. JAPCO is a member of the Japan Federation of Electrical Power Companies, which is a joint owner of the Pacific Nuclear Transport Limited (PNTL) operator of the two ships, Pacific Teal and Pacific Pintail.
- Public relations war breaks out over BC torpedo testing site.
Globe and Mail
by Kim Lunman
British Columbia Bureau
NANAIMO -- A public-relations war between Ottawa and the B.C. government was clearly under way off Vancouver Island as a navy ship set sail over the Strait of Georgia with a crew of camera-toting civilians and fresh-faced sea cadets.
"Torpedoes are us," Commander Gordon Buckingham of HMCS Ottawa cheerily told visitors and news media as pictures, including a sunset shot over the base's control centre at Winchelsea Island, were flashed on an overhead projector.
There was also a photograph of a visiting sea lion, "2,000 pounds of bad attitude and bad breath," Commander Buckingham joked.
The Canadian navy's tour last week, in which 160 local residents were treated to lunch and a torpedo-firing test, was a pre-emptive strike in the battle for public support between the federal and provincial governments -- one that will only heighten as hearings into the federal government's unprecedented expropriation of the province-owned underwater naval site start today in Nanaimo.
Ottawa announced in May it would expropriate the 100-square-kilometre seabed -- North America's only military torpedo-testing range -- after negotiations with the British Columbia government over a lease set to expire September 4 collapsed, with each side blaming the other.
The federal government, which offered British Columbia $125-million over 30 years, said the deal fell apart because Premier Glen Clark was using the seabed as a bargaining chip to make unrelated demands concerning the Canada-U.S. salmon dispute. The province maintains talks faltered when Ottawa refused to guarantee that no nuclear weapons would be aboard U.S. vessels using the test site near Nanoose Bay, about 30 kilometres north of Nanaimo.
About 2,600 written objections to the expropriation have been filed, but only 85 people so far are set to appear before hearing officer Michael Goldie, a retired judge, at the proceedings scheduled for four weeks in Nanaimo and Vancouver.
Under the federal Expropriation Act, objectors' complaints must be filed to Canada's Public Works Minister Alfonso Gagliano within 60 days of the government filing notice of expropriation -- or by Sept. 3, one day before the lease for the naval site expires. Mr. Gagliano has the final say on whether the expropriation goes ahead, and will make that decision after reading Mr. Goldie's report.
Canadian navy officials say last week's cruise had nothing to do with the political squabble over the 35-year-old Canada-U.S. military test range. Still, the province has spent $60,000 on a publicity campaign against expropriation through newspaper and radio ads, and a website. Ottawa retaliated with its own web site, while Defence Minister Art Eggleton wrote a letter to area newspapers in defence of the site. His department even hired a Victoria-based communications consultant to handle the Nanoose file.
"This whole thing is a paper war between the politicians in Ottawa and Victoria," said Ted Ethier, a Nanaimo resident and 73-year-old retired army officer who supports Ottawa. "I live here and sail here and I don't have two heads."
The naval range is operated by the Defence Department, which leases the seabed from the province to test high-tech weaponry, including torpedoes. Canada's Supreme Court awarded the seabed to the province in 1986, and Ottawa entered into a 10-year, $1-a-year lease with British Columbia.
About two-thirds of the vessels using the test range, known as Whiskey Golf, are U.S. Navy ships.
The U.S. Navy, which has invested $170-million in the site, does not, as a matter of defence policy, confirm or deny whether nuclear warheads are aboard its vessels. Canadian officials acknowledge that five U.S. nuclear-powered submarines have visited Nanoose Bay in the past year.
"What they can't seem to reassure us about is that there are no nuclear warheads present at the site," said B.C. Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Andrew Petter. "We want to lead expert evidence at the hearings that will substantiate such warheads are almost certainly present from time to time in this area."
Rear Admiral Ron Buck, who oversees the Canadian navy's Pacific operations, said there is no nuclear threat in the Nanoose Bay site, which is ideal for torpedo testing because its flat, muddy surface allows for easy retrieval of torpedoes after they are fired. (The torpedoes tested are non-explosive.)
"This range and its capabilities are very important to us," said Rear Admiral Buck.
Meanwhile, Commander Buckingham, who is in charge of the Nanoose Bay testing range, said nuclear-powered submarines pose much less of a threat to the environment than nuclear power plants. "We've had these vessels visiting since 1967 and we've never had a problem." All U.S. Navy submarines are nuclear-powered.
But environmental activists and area residents objecting to expropriation are worried about the risks of a potential nuclear accident. "We have valid concerns," said Norm Abbey, director of the Nanoose Conversion Campaign, a group opposing nuclear vessels in Canadian waters. "It's not just an emotional issue. If something does go wrong, there's no accident plan for people who live around the Georgia Strait."
A 100-square-kilometre seabed off the coast of Vancouver Island in the Strait of Georgia near Nanoose Bay, about 30 km north of Nanaimo. The seabed has an average depth of 410 metres. High-tech military hardware is used to track underwater objects in 3-D. The area is part of the test facilities at Canadian Forces Experimental and Test Ranges, which has been open since 1965 as a testing site for torpedoes, sonar, sonobuoys, and other maritime warfare equipment.
The range tests between 300 to 400 torpedos annually, most of them American. Almost all are launched from surface craft. There have been 31,000 test firings since the range opened.
An average of two submarines and six surface ships visit the range each year. Since the range opened, there have been 246 visits by U.S. surface ships, 162 by U.S. submarines, six by Canadian submarines and 254 by Canadian ships. A Chilean submarine visited Nanoose in 1994.
The range employs 57 people, including 11 Canadian military naval officers and six U.S. civilian technicians.
The U.S. has invested $170-million in the facility. Canada's investment is $47-million. The base is estimated to pump $8-million into the local economy.
The range is linked to the U.S. Naval Underwater Warfare Center at Keyport, Wash., which is a sub-base of Newport, R.I., Naval Underwater Warfare Center.
- What began as a BC salmon dispute is now a fight over nuclear weapons.
by Jeff Lee
NANAIMO -- When the dispute over the future of the Nanoose Bay experimental test range erupted two years ago, it had little to do with nuclear weapons, and everything to do with salmon.
In fact, when Premier Glen Clark told Prime Minister Jean Chretien in May, 1997 that the province had given 90 days' notice it was cancelling the federal lease of the seabed where the range is located, he cited the failure of the Pacific Salmon Treaty as the prime reason.
No mention was ever made of concern that ships using the test range might have nuclear capability or carry nuclear weapons.
But two years, a court case and months of failed negotiations later, as the federal government begins hearings into its decision to expropriate the seabed, the province has skillfully turned the argument over Nanoose Bay into a public relations campaign about the evils of the nuclear age.
Using a campaign of mail-outs and television and newspaper advertising, it helped tap the concern felt by many British Columbians about the use of Nanoose Bay by ships of the U.S. Navy. Many of the more than 2,700 written objections filed with Ottawa are written on coupons provided by the province.
That unease about nuclear weapons spilled out Monday during the first day of what will be nearly a month of hearings into the federal decision to expropriate the sea floor at Canadian Forces Maritime Experimental Test Range, as it is officially known. Every one of the objectors who appeared before retired judge Michael Goldie to plead against expropriation cited the fear of a nuclear accident in B.C., saying some U.S. ships visiting the site are either nuclear-powered or carry nuclear weapons.
Ottawa has repeatedly said Nanoose has never been and never will be used for the testing of nuclear weapons. And a federal official pointed out Monday that Victoria is as close to the nuclear submarine base at Bangor, Wash. as Vancouver is to Nanoose Bay, and that Trident nuclear submarines regularly pass the provincial capital on their way to the Pacific Ocean.
But those points are overshadowed by the emotional objections people have raised with Goldie, who was hired by Ottawa to hold hearings into the propriety of the federal expropriation of 225 square kilometres of seafloor. It is the first hostile expropriation of provincial lands in Canada in recent history.
"Nuclear power is simply not acceptable to the people of B.C. Yet every time a U.S. submarine or aircraft carrier approaches the Nanoose test range, the Strait of Georgia is transformed into a nuclear facility," said Laurie MacBride, executive director of the Georgia Strait Alliance. "By allowing nuclear-powered ships into the area, we are exposed to unacceptable environmental risks."
John Mate, representing Greenpeace Canada, told Goldie Ottawa is bullying B.C. to appease the U.S. "How does the banning of nuclear armed vessels from Nanoose Bay compromise the safety or security of Canada or of a state allied or associated with Canada," he asked.
He pointed out that there have been more than 1,200 serious accidents involving the world's five nuclear navies and that, as of 1991, up to 50 nuclear warheads and nine nuclear reactors were sitting on the bottom of the world's oceans.
Ottawa decided in May to expropriate the provincially owned seabed after Clark rejected its offer to pay $125 million over 30 years for a new lease. Instead, the premier continued to link the lease to the salmon treaty and demands for support for coastal communities hurt by declining stocks and conservation measures. The current lease expires in September, and the 90-day notice of cancellation was put on hold pending a federal court challenge that has yet to be resolved.
On May 12, the two governments signed an agreement in principle that included a clause that nuclear weapons would not be present on the range. But Ottawa backed out of the deal.
Defence department officials say the range is used to test underwater weapons, including guidance systems on torpedoes, and acoustic equipment. Nanoose also houses Canada's only repair facility for the sonar used on Sea King helicopters.
Goldie will hold two weeks of hearings in Nanaimo. He will open two more weeks of hearings in Vancouver Aug. 3, starting with two days of submissions by B.C.'s representative, Greg McDade.
- Nanoose Hearing re. Submarine Torpedo Test Range opens feistily.
by Don Hauka, Political Reporter
NANAIMO -- A former judge constantly interrupted speakers, harrumphed that he was "not an appeal court for the immigration system" and nearly reduced an elderly woman to tears during yesterday's opening of the Nanoose Bay expropriation hearing.
Federally appointed hearing officer Michael Goldie, a former B.C. Appeal Court judge, left a crowd of about 60 people frustrated by his insistence on conducting proceedings according to the strict letter of the law.
Goldie is chairing a hearing into Ottawa's plan to expropriate the provincially owned seabed used by the Canadian and U.S. military as a weapons-testing range.
Things got off to a rocky start as Diane McLaren of the Unitarian Church of Victoria said she felt at times as though she was being cross-examined by Goldie.
"I didn't feel I had been heard or even respectfully listened to," McLaren said later.
"He had forgotten, momentarily, that he was not on the bench and of the 15 minutes I thought I had for my 12-minute speech, a good third of it was taken up by unnecessary back-and-forth quibbling," McLaren said.
Goldie frequently interrupted McLaren and other witnesses, asking the Victoria churchwoman at one point: "Isn't this something I should be hearing from the provincial government?"
The former judge banned TV cameras from the hearing room because of "congestion," allowing only a single pool camera to cover the proceedings.
When told that David Kreiger, spokesman for the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, was unable to make it to the hearing because he'd been refused entry into Canada, Goldie said: "I'm not here to act as an appeal court for the immigration system."
Without exception, those speaking yesterday were against the presence of U.S. nuclear vessels using the Nanoose test range.
Almost all said federal expropriation would mean they had less input on changes to make the testing range more environmentally sound or, for that matter, to shut it down.
- Germany bows to pressure by delaying its reprocessing ban indefinitely.
By Mark John
BONN - Germany's decision to delay a ban on nuclear waste reprocessing averts the risk of a dispute with France and Britain over lucrative reprocessing contracts, Justice Minister Herta Daeubler-Gmelin said on Wednesday.
She told DLF radio that the delay, which Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder announced on Tuesday, created more time to reach agreement on existing contracts held by French and British firms.
"The best way to do this is via agreement, and if you do that, no one will have anything to complain about," she added.
Schroeder's cabinet earlier backed the postponement of the ban, originally set for the beginning of next year, and agreed to delay for three weeks legislation setting out Germany's longer-term commitment to withdraw altogether from nuclear fuel.
France and Britain had threatened to sue for damages if reprocessing contracts held by their respective firms, Cogema and BNFL, were cancelled over the ban. Cogema's potential losses alone were put at 30 billion francs ($5.3 billion).
Acknowledging such claims could cost the German state dear, Schroeder, to the dismay of his ecologist Greens coalition allies, indefinitely postponed the ban.
Aside from the huge potential damages resulting from the ban, it also risked upsetting two major European Union partners at a time when Bonn needs their backing for its demands for a cut in its contributions to Brussels.
Under the deal between Schroeder and Germany's nuclear firms, nuclear plants will only be banned from sending their waste on for reprocessing if alternative storage capacity is available for them - an arrangement which in some cases could put the deadline back for years.
Greens leaders, despite their clear disappointment, were forced on Wednesday to accept the deal worked out by their much larger coalition partner, the Social Democrats.
Greens parliamentary chief whip Kerstin Mueller said she believed four out of Germany's 19 reactors would be taken off stream during the current four-year legislative period - a far more modest target than that once sought by the Greens.
"But it is a major achievement that for the first time in the history of the federal republic, industry accepted that the nuclear sector is to be run down," Mueller told WDR 5 radio.
A spokesman for Environment Minister Juergen Trittin, another Greens leader, said Trittin had fully accepted the cabinet decision that his draft legislation on the nuclear pullout now be studied for possible amendments.
Germany's media broadly welcomed as sensible the fact that Schroeder's centre-left coalition now appeared resigned to handling the nuclear pullout at a slower pace.
But the fact that Schroeder had only days earlier pledged to the Greens that the reprocessing ban would go ahead as planned provoked criticism about his style of government.
"This is a stop-go style of government at break-neck speed - but it won't work for long," said the mass circulation newspaper Bild in an editorial. "In future, better do it more slowly, more thoroughly," it advised the chancellor, who admitted on Tuesday "possible mistakes" had been made in his dealings with the nuclear industry.
- Germany seeks to defuse nuclear waste dispute with France and Britain.
By Rosemary Bennett
LONDON - Britain and Germany on Wednesday agreed to explore ways of sending 650 tonnes of unprocessed nuclear waste back to Germany if Bonn presses ahead with plans to phase out nuclear power.
Bonn also tried to smooth over an ugly row which has broken out with France, which reprocesses many times more German waste than Britain and whose Cogema plant relies heavily on the German business.
An hour-long talk between British Trade Secretary Stephen Byers and German environment minister Juergen Trittin failed to resolve the issue of compensation for British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL), which stands to lose 1.2 billion pounds ($2 billion) of business if Germany scraps existing reprocessing contracts.
Trittin has said he plans to phase out Germany's 19 nuclear reactors and ban German firms from sending nuclear waste abroad for reprocessing, starting from next January.
He said in recent days there was no case for compensation for cancelled contracts, but declined to comment on the issue again on Wednesday.
Byers and Trittin agreed to set up a working group of British and German officials to discuss how best to send the spent nuclear fuel awaiting reprocessing at the Sellafield site in northwest England back to Germany.
British officials said both sides agreed that the future of the contract with BNFL was a matter for British law.
German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, visiting France on Wednesday, said he wanted to solve the row in a pragmatic and friendly way and the establishment of a another joint working group there was the best way forward.
Fischer told members of the French National Assembly's foreign affairs committee the issue should not be allowed to damage Franco-German relations.
"We must try to solve this problem in a spirit of partnership and friendship...I suggest we look for a pragmatic solution," Fischer said.
Fischer, like Trittin, declined to comment on possible compensation. "The answer belongs to legal experts," he said.
Byers said after the London talks Britain would not act as a storage depot for Germany if it tried to scrap the contracts.
In a statement, Byers said while Germany's nuclear policy was a domestic matter, Britain's state-owned BNFL should not me made to suffer financially because of it.
"I also made clear that if the 650 tonnnes of German spent fuel in store at Sellafied were not to be reprocessed, then it would have to be returned to Germany," Byers said.
"The UK will not act as a permanent storage depot for nuclear material."
Trittin said he was well aware that the waste was Germany's problem. "It is our duty to take back all the nuclear waste we have exported to other countries," he told reporters. "Germany is not interested in dumping waste in other countries."
He said there were many techncial problems in the transport and storage of waste which the working group would discuss.
But the group would not touch on the legal wrangle.
"There may be some differences in the legal position of both sides but this is not the task of the group," he said.
BNFL has developed expertise in final storage of nuclear waste and political sources said winning a contract to advise Germany on this may comprise part of a compensation package.
- French Greens leader pelted with eggs by reprocessing plant workers.
LA HAGUE, France - Greens leader Daniel Cohn-Bendit was pelted with rotten eggs and tufts of earth when he visited the threatened Cogema nuclear waste re-processing plant in Normandy on Tuesday.
Hundreds of workers shouted insults at Cohn-Bendit and other officials of France's Greens party, which is backing him as their main candidate in general elections to the European parliament scheduled for June 13.
Cohn-Bendit, a leader of France's May 1968 students revolt, is German but has been accepted by France's Greens to head their slate in the vote.
Some 6,000 workers in the La Hague area fear their jobs are threatened by the Greens, who hope to end French reliance on nuclear power.
Cohn-Bendit told workers shouting at him that it would be 20 years before their plant closed, if it did.
His visit to La Hague took place amid a clash between France and Germany over nuclear waste.
Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has rejected claims from France that Germany was breaking contractual agreements with its decision to ban reprocessing of nuclear waste from 2000. German nuclear waste is reprocessed in France and Britain.
- British-German dispute looms over cancelled plutonium contracts.
ReutersP> By Rosemary Bennett
LONDON - A row looked set to erupt between Britain and Germany on Wednesday over Bonn's plans to phase out nuclear power and scrap valuable contracts with a British nuclear reprocessing plant.
Political sources said Trade Secretary Stephen Byers would tell German environment minister Juergen Trittin at talks in London that contracts promising 1.2 billion pounds (US $2 billion) of reprocessing business to British Nuclear Fuels' (BNFL) Thorp plant on the Sellafield site could not be cancelled.
Trittin has said he plans to phase out Germany's 19 nuclear reactors and ban German firms from sending nuclear waste abroad for reprocessing, starting from next January. There was no case for compensation for cancelled contracts, he said.
On the eve of the meeting, political sources expressed frustration at the lack of information given to the British government by the Bonn administration.
"We want a clear explanation of what the German decision is and what they see as the implications in terms of BNFL. All we have had so far is hearsay," said one.
The source said Britain was not yet thinking of appropriate levels of compensation.
"It is not even a case of compensation. As far as we are concerned, these are clear and binding contracts between UK and German companies and letters between UK and German government setting out commitments which we expect to be honoured."
BNFL said its German reprocessing contracts were "enforceable" and it would seek compliance or compensation if the German government tried to cancel them.
"The reprocessing contracts we have with our German customers were negotiated in good faith and freely entered into. Furthermore these contracts were supported by a formal exchange of letters between the UK and German governments," said BNFL chairman Sir John Guinness.
BNFL would not hesitate to seek enforcement or full compensation through the courts if the contracts were not honoured in full, he said.
The contracts with German utilities are worth 10 percent of Thorp's order book.
An ugly row has already broken out between Germany and France over Bonn's proposals. German reprocessing business there is worth several times more than that placed with Thorp and French reprocessing firm Cogema has demanded compensation if contracts are scrapped.
On Tuesday Trittin repeated his government's line that there was no case for compensation.
"We are discussing with the French government how the consequences of our pull-out from nuclear energy can be resolved. There is absolutely no legal basis for damages claims," he said on a trip to Brussels.
One suggestion has been that British and French reprocessors be allowed to sell plutonium extracted from German waste as a way of compensating them for lost reprocessing contracts.
But Trittin said any deal done with the two plants would explicitly rule out the sale of any plutonium extracted from German waste to make weapons.
Another possible deal could involve asking the two plants to prepare the German waste for end-storage in plants to be built in the future.