Citizens' Nuclear Information Center
Nakano-ku, Tokyo 164
Nuclear Control Institute
1000 Connecticut Avenue NW, Suite 804
Washington, DC 20036
31-33, rue de la Colonie
1016 DW, Amsterdam
December 7, 1996
Open Letter to the Governments of France, Japan, the United States and to the European Union
The Honorable Riichiro Chikaoka
Director General, Science and Technology Agency, Tokyo
The Honorable Franck Borotra
Minister of Industry, Paris
The Honorable Corinne Lepage
Minister of Environment, Paris
The Honorable Hazel O'Leary
Secretary of Energy, Washington, D.C.
Dear Honorable Officials:
We are writing concerning the planned second shipment of highly radioactive, vitrified nuclear waste from France to Japan that is now expected to take place December 1996 - February 1997. We are writing to urge that you undertake, for reasons stated below, the necessary measures in order that this imminent shipment be suspended.
At the time of the first shipment of highly radioactive, vitrified nuclear waste which took place February - April of 1995, we addressed the following issues and opposed the shipment taking place without these issues being addressed:
The first shipment of high level vitrified nuclear waste was forced through in spite of repeated requests concerning the above issues. Due to the protest and concern over safety of the shipment by en route countries, this first across-the-world long distance sea shipment of high level vitrified waste was forced to take a circuitous route around South America. All the problems that this entailed only highlighted the various issues that remained unaddressed.
- Shipment should not take place with inadequate disclosure of information concerning the route the ship would take, its schedule, detailed data concerning the vitrified waste on board, etc.
- Opposition and concerns raised by nations en route of the shipment should be listened to and addressed.
- An environmental impact assessment should be undertaken in accordance with the provisions of the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea.
- The safety issues concerning the shipment, storage, and final disposal of the high level vitrified nuclear waste should be answered. In particular, the concerns raised by Dr. Edwin S. Lyman, PhD of Princeton University (at that time) regarding the sensitization of the steel canisters containing the waste and their degradation due to corrosion should be addressed.
- An official quality control procedure by an independent body should be established for the high level vitrified nuclear waste.
- Complete information disclosure should be made concerning future shipment schedules of high, medium, and low level nuclear waste, its conditioning, storage, disposal methods, and site of disposal.
When the ship finally arrived at the port of Mutsu-Ogawara, Aomori Governor Kimura refused entry of the ship into port because it was not possible to confirm the safety of the vitrified waste on board due to the lack of information being disclosed, and because the final disposal site for the waste remained undetermined . In response, the Japanese government hurriedly appended data concerning the vitrified waste, the then Director General of the Science and Technology Agency Makiko Tanaka submitted a letter of "committment" to the governor of Aomori, and thus forced through the entry of the vitrified nuclear waste into the Rokkasho storage facility.
However, the problem was not over. It was then discovered that of the 28 canisters that had been shipped, one of them (1982C) was possibly leaking radiation. This was confirmed during the "confinement testing" of the canisters before entry into the storage facility. The concerns we had been addressing regarding the integrity of the canisters now became substantiated by reality. The Japanese government made no effort to clarify at what point this leakage accident had occurred. Instead, it dealt with the problem as "surface contamination" and went ahead with canister storage into the Rokkasho facililty.
The fact that the leakage was discovered after the first shipment throws great uncertainty as to the safety of further transports and long term storage of this material. It is expected that several thousand canisters of material will be vitrified under the same manufacturing process and transported. This first example of contamination has led to considerable anxiety and distrust among the people of Rokkashomura and also among countries en route of the sea shipment, and the probability is great that leakage due to corrosion of the sensitized steel canisters will occur again. To firmly establish the safety of the vitrified waste, a comprehensive re-examination of the waste manufactured by COGEMA, the physical composition of the canister itself, the manufacturing process, etc. is being sought. We the undersigned also raised the same issues but there has been absolutely no action on this matter on the part of those concerned. We believe it is your obligation to suspend this upcoming shipment until this problem is properly addressed.
There are also new, important developments in Japan. After last year*s sodium leak accident at Japan*s prototype fast breeder reactor Monju, the governors of Fukui, Niigata and Fukushima prefectures have submitted a proposal seeking that the Japanese government review the entire nuclear fuel cycle program in Japan including its back end nuclear waste policy. The Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) of Japan has begun this re-examination process in response to the governors. A citizen participatory national discussion which will result in clarification of Japan*s future nuclear waste policy is about to begin.
The issues we addressed during the first shipment remain yet to be addressed. In addition, Dr. Lyman, now with the Nuclear Control Institute, has prepared a second report warning that because of unresolved packaging and salvage problems, a sinking of the waste cargo following a collision in coastal waters "could cause chronic exposure to the public far in excess of standards set by the international community."
While there has been some improvement in transparency concerning the transport plan for the second shipment, the level of information disclosure is far from sufficient. The authorities concerned should make public all specification data of the high level vitrified waste to be transported, and comprehensive information concerning the transport route to be taken and safety issues related to the transport should be disclosed sufficiently in advance of the shipment to enable the en route countries to prepare for contingencies.
We believe it is the responsibility of the governmental authorities in the countries concerned to first suspend or postpone this shipment and then confirm the safety of the vitrified waste and make public all information concerning this material.
We look forward to receiving your response.
Citizens Nuclear Information Center
Nuclear Control Institute
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