Designed to coincide with this year’s G8 summit in Trieste, Italy, beginning on 2 March, Friends of the Earth (FoE) has called on the organisation of the world’s richest nations and Russia to face the issue of nuclear risk in Central and Eastern Europe. The NGO has released a new report Limited Safety/Unlimited Risk criticising the G8’s failure

“to shut down high-risk reactors” and demands that it stops “squandering tax-payers’ millions in subsidies to its ailing and discredited nuclear power”.

At the 1992 G7 meeting in Munich, before Russia was admitted, governments promised that Soviet-designed nuclear plants in Central and Eastern Europe would be shut down to prevent another disaster like Chernobyl, but so far, says FoE, none of these reactors have been closed. The environmental organisation points out that during this time new plants using Soviet-era designs, such as Temelin in the Czech Republic, which has resulted in a diplomatic row with Austria and wide-scale protests (see related story), have begun operations. In its Agenda 2000, the EU’s blueprint on enlargement for 13 applicant nations, the need for high nuclear safety was confirmed and closure timetables were established. For example, FoE says, the Kozloduy plant in Bulgaria was to be closed by 1998, but still remains open (see related story).

FoE alleges that “dodgy fix-it contracts in Central and Eastern Europe for the West’s desperate nuclear industry (i.e. Siemens/Framatom) have resulted in the operational lives of dangerous reactors being extended”. It says that European governments and NGOs are sceptical of safety assessments and methodologies to improve safety in old plants already officially declared ‘non-upgradable’, as Austria is in the case of the Temelin plant.

In particular, the organisation points to a report to the Austrian Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Environment and Water Management by a University of Vienna department, which states that, with regards to the K2/R4 reactors in the Ukraine (see related story), “safety issues (are) not dealt with adequately”. The report said that the problems were so severe that they “call into question the concept of

the modernisation program” and that claims that “K2R4 (is) reaching an internationally acceptable safety level….are in no way substantiated.”

“Kozloduy in Bulgaria was declared non-upgradeable. Bohunice in Slovakia was declared non-upgradeable,” says Patricia Lorenz from FoE Europe. “Vague talk of ‘safety improvements’ is nothing more than a PR strategy. An evaluation must be made, clear goals must be set and the final closure of high risk reactors assured.”

FoE argues that money spent on extending the operational life of nuclear reactors diverts investment from other opportunities and in its report sets out the following guidelines:

  • projects in the East must not be of lower standard than those financed in the West;
  • there should be no case-by-case approach to safety assessments. A clear methodology and safety targets must be applied;
  • International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) standards are insufficient;
  • nuclear safety standards must be up-to-date and safety standards from the 1960s and 1970s are not acceptable; and
  • information must be made public without exceptions.

The G8 was to discuss plans for the disposal of plutonium from

nuclear weapons and financing the production and use of MOX, a plutonium-based fuel. “Friends of the Earth calls on the G8 to stop hijacking the disarmament issue to justify MOX fuel production,” Lorenz says. “The G8 plutonium plans would require yet more tax-payer money being poured into the bottomless pit that is the nuclear industry and more dodgy modifications to nuclear plants in the former Soviet Union and so further delay the closure of high risk reactors.”

A demonstration by FOE activists from Austria, Croatia, the Czech Republic and Slovenia was planned for 2 March in front of the G8’s meeting place. Further information and the report Limited Safety/ Unlimited Risk is available on the FoE Europe website.

Edie will provide coverage of the G8 summit in next week’s bulletin.

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie