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Thursday, August 1, 1996


The Washington-based Nuclear Control Institute criticized today's groundbreaking for the proposed FRM-II reactor in Germany as a "dark day in the battle against nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism."

The FRM-II would be the first large nuclear research reactor---outside of China and Libya---to be built to use bomb-grade, highly enriched uranium (HEU) fuel since an international consensus was established against such reactors in the late 1970s. Nearly all HEU reactors built prior to that time have converted or are in the process of converting to non-weapons-usable, low enriched uranium fuel. A few reactors will cease using the bomb-grade fuel when they shut down. The FRM-II thus would revive commerce in bomb-grade uranium just when this fuel is on track to be phased out entirely.

"This is the wrong reactor at the wrong time," said Alan Kuperman, senior policy analyst at NCI, a non-proliferation research and advocacy center. "Recent terror attacks -- at the Olympics, in Saudi Arabia, in Japan's subways, in New York and Oklahoma City---indicate that terrorist groups are moving toward ever greater and more random violence. The last thing we need at this time is to increase commerce in nuclear weapons-grade uranium and make that material vulnerable to theft by terrorists, who have the capability to construct a bomb."

"The FRM-II would not only increase HEU traffic in Germany but could shatter the international consensus and increase such commerce worldwide," Kuperman added. "That is an irresponsible step for a major world power like Germany."

The groundbreaking, Kuperman noted, does not make the FRM-II decision irreversible. "It is still not too late for the German people to decide for themselves that this reactor is a bad idea for their security and for the security of the world. Just as several earlier, ill-conceived nuclear projects involving weapons-usable material were cancelled---the Kalkar Breeder, the Seimens MOX plant, the THTR HEU-fueled reactor and the Wackersdorf reprocessing plant---so can the FRM-II. It would be cheaper and safer to cancel it sooner than later if its sponsors refuse to change the design to non-weapons-usable fuel."

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