Greenpeace sends French nuclear discharges back home

Greenpeace has announced it is collecting thousands of litres of radioactive effluent, discharged from the La Hague reprocessing plant off the French coast of Normandy, and would seek to return it to client countries in Europe with the demand that they cancel their contracts with the state-owned operating company Cogema.

The action follows last week’s announcement that high levels of radioactive contamination have again been found on the sea bed near the nuclear reprocessing complex.

Sediment collected by divers operating from the Greenpeace vessel ‘Strakur’ and analysed by the independent French radiological laboratory ACRO, contained levels of radioactive elements, including: caesium-137 (19,390 Bq/kg); cobalt-60 (9,063 Bq/kg); americium-241 (1,649 Bq/kg); and ruthenium-106 (9,408 Bq/kg) exceeding European Community levels for controlled nuclear waste.

Greenpeace first revealed that the plant, operated by the state owned company Cogema, was polluting the area around the site’s discharge pipe Two years ago. Every year La Hague discharges some 230 million litres of liquid nuclear waste into the sea.

“The sediment sampling marks the beginning of renewed monitoring operations by Greenpeace to expose Cogema’s deliberate use of the marine environment as a nuclear dump”, said Simon Boxer of Greenpeace International. “Despite the overwhelming evidence of the scale of the nuclear contamination of the environment by La Hague, the radioactive waste continues to be poured into the sea. French government promises and Cogema’s failed clean-up attempts have had no impact on the levels of sea bed contamination. The only way to prevent further radioactive contamination of the environment is to stop reprocessing immediately.”

Cogema extracts plutonium during the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel from nuclear power stations in France, Belgium, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

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