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Some European governments need to get over the nasty, unfair, habit of sending their unwanted stuff – first people, and now nuclear waste, to other lands. They need to grow up and take responsibility. Historically, certain European countries (e.g. UK, France, Germany) made a bad habit of dumping their religious and political rebels, criminals, and mentally ill, upon other places, including the current United States of America. They didn’t care about the repercussions upon earlier inhabitants. They also removed people just to take the land (at home and abroad). More recently, several European countries have sent, or tried to send, radioactive waste to the US for “processing”, including incineration, storage, and probably for dumping. Once again with no consideration for the inhabitants or the environment. It’s not like Europe is pristine land. Much of Europe is terribly poisoned with radiation by various combinations of fallout from Chernobyl, (mostly) Russian nuclear weapons testing, uranium mining and waste. France and Germany, in particular, have vast quasi-unoccupied tracts of land. While far from ideal, Europe is still more climatically appropriate for radioactive waste storage than either Tennessee or South Carolina.

In 2013 Germany incinerated radioactive waste in Tennessee. The ashes were supposedly to be returned to Germany. (Psst, do you want to buy land in Bayou Corne?) Now, the German government wants to send its high level radioactive waste to the Savannah River site in South Carolina. Meanwhile, the US has no true facility for any of its own radioactive waste. In fact, as part of the clean-up of the Savannah River site, radioactive waste was sent to the now-failed (inoperable) WIPP facility in New Mexico.

Majority French government owned (approx. 85%) EDF, which owns all French reactors, and most UK nuclear reactors, wants permission to use Scotland to export UK, and maybe French, nuclear waste to Tennessee and elsewhere. They also may dump on Scotland, as dustbin waste, or at Dounreay. See: http://www.sepa.org.uk/about_us/consultations.aspx NB: “Responses to the consultation should be sent in writing no later than 3 October 2014 to either The Registrar Scottish Environment Protection Agency Angus Smith Building Parklands Avenue Eurocentral Holytown North Lanarkshire ML1 4WQ Or registry.angussmith@sepa.org.uk

Why is Scotland so underpopulated? It is because the UK government cleared the land of its people in various periods and sent them to the US, among other places. Will it now make a nuclear export hub and/or dumping ground of Scotland? Of the USA?

It is interesting that the German people understand that it is wrong to send Germany’s nuclear waste to other countries, whether the USA or Russia. It is also illegal for Germany to export the waste, according to a legal opinion presented on behalf of Greenpeace Germany. Tom Clements of Savannah River Watch was recently invited to Germany to speak with the German environmental groups who are opposing the export of German nuclear waste to the USA. Here are some photos, from the Savannah River Watch web site, of his time in Germany:

SRS Watch at railway exit from spent fuel storage facility at the Juelich research center in Germany on September 21, 2014.
SRS Watch at railway exit from spent fuel storage facility at the Juelich research center in Germany on September 21, 2014.

 Tom Clements is interviewed by German TV a
The South Carolina flag – Don’t Dump on US! – and SRS Watch banner fly proudly as SRS Watch director Tom Clements is interviewed by German TV and a local newspaper in front of the Ahaus nuclear waste storage facility on September 24. Special interests in the US aim to profit from the scheme to dump highly radioactive graphite THTR gas-cooled reactor spent fuel now stored at Ahaus on the US DOE’s Savannah River Site. The SRS watch September 21-26 trip through Germany garnered much press attention, good contacts with German colleagues and productive interactions with members of the Bundestag (parliament) in Berlin.

 "The South Carolina flag flies at the gates of Germany's Juelich facility on September 21
The South Carolina flag flies at the gates of Germany’s Juelich facility on September 21, proudly representing public opposition in South Carolina to the scheme to process and dump German commercial spent fuel into the aging high-level waste tanks at SRS. More high-level nuclear waste will negatively impact the urgent clean-up at SRS. Development by Savannah River Nuclear Lab of a new reprocessing technique for the German graphite fuel holds proliferation risks that DOE has so far refused to analyze.

Images and descriptions from the SRS Watch web site, which also has links to articles at the Rheinische Post, Die Welt, and Der Spiegel online. See: http://www.srswatch.org

There is also a link to a Greenpeace Germany interview with Tom Clements. We have transcribed the Greenpeace audio of the interview:

Greenpeace Germany Question: “So, you are the director of the NGO Savannah River Site Watch. Maybe you can make a short introduction of yourself. Who you are? Where you come from? And, what you are doing?

Tom Clements: “I am the director of this NGO called Savannah River Site Watch in the state of South Carolina in the US. And, it was started early in 2014 to focus on this large US Department of Energy facility at the Savannah River Site. But, I’ve worked about 15 years for Greenpeace International Nuclear Campaign and also for Friends of the Earth nuclear campaign. But we thought a dedicated NGO on this very large facility was needed.

Q: “So maybe you can give a little overview about this nuclear reservation?

A: “The US Department of Energy, which is really a department of nuclear weapons, has a huge complex across the United States and the Savannah River Site in South Carolina is one of the facilities. It’s over 800 square kilometers” [310 sq miles] “in size and had five reactors that produced plutonium for nuclear weapons. So there’s a huge amount of nuclear waste at the site awaiting cleanup. And, there’s quite a bit of concern in the area about what’s going to happen with all of the nuclear waste at the site because it’s in tanks that are leaking“.

Q: “Well, this, the problem of this nuclear reservation, it’s often said that the SRS is the most contaminated site.

A: “It’s really rather stunning how much nuclear waste was left from producing nuclear materials from the Cold War. Right now there’s still over 100 million liters of high level nuclear waste, originally in 51 large tanks. It’s in a liquid form in tanks that are 50 years old. So, there’s a real threat of leakage. But there’s all sorts of other operations at the site dealing with nuclear materials that have impact on the local environment and the Savannah River, which is right there. So there’s a lot of concern locally about impact to the environment and public health from the threat of the nuclear waste“.

Q: “The problem is there is no final nuclear disposal. Isn’t it?

A: “The US has no program at all, even to find a geologic repository for high level nuclear waste which includes the Department of Energy waste and commercial spent nuclear fuel. And, it seems to me the situation is even worse than in Germany, because there is no process at all for long term plans for what to do with this very dangerous material. It’s really a very sad situation in the United States“.

Q: “Though in Germany we have the same problem and now Germany will transport the nuclear waste from Jülich to the USA. How did you find out about this transport?

A: “Well, there is a lot of discussion at Savannah River about what to do with the clean-up, we have more radioactive material than any other Department of Energy site in the United States. So while people are talking about the cleanup, activists in Germany communicated to me that there was discussion here about bringing more nuclear waste from the AVR and THTR reactors. This was early 2013, but the US Department of Energy did not publicly reveal anything until May of 2014. So, this really shows how important it is for activism and citizens participating and sharing information internationally“.

Q: “So a legal opinion of Greenpeace demonstrated that the transport would be illegal. Could you explain what’s the problem of the transport and what is the main problem on the part of the USA, of this transport?

A: “Well, in my trip to Germany I’ve certainly been finding out about the shipments are illegal and it’s illegal to take it to Savannah River because for one thing it would be reprocessed and uranium could be taken out and used as nuclear power fuel, which is also illegal to do.

But on our end, the biggest problem is we are a site that’s being cleaned-up, we are not an international nuclear dump. So, we are quite afraid that this is opening the door to more nuclear waste coming in and it will essentially stay in South Carolina forever, because there’s no repository. So that’s the biggest risk to us“.

Q: “Do you believe that we can avert the transport?

A: “Oh, I think so. It looks to me like the law here in Germany will not allow it, this to happen. But public opinion in South Carolina is against this. The newspapers around the Savannah River site, which is a very conservative area, they’ve already spoken out strongly against this. A candidate for governor of the state is spoken out against it and there are other politicians who are concerned. So, unlike a lot of other things, this has no support, except from the people who would make the money, these are private contractors, and that is the real reason for it in the US, they want to make hundreds of millions of dollars off of this deal. And, that’s really the sole motivation. But, the people, I don’t think are going to accept this. So yes, I think that we can stop the transport, if we continue our work with Greenpeace Germany and other groups here in Germany“. [The Greenpeace Germany Editor notes that 800 sq. km is about the area of ​​the Federal State of Berlin and about 100 times larger than the area of ​​the large reprocessing plants at La Hague in France and Sellafield in England]. Original audio of Greenpeace Germany interview in English, and German text translation, are found here: http://www.greenpeace.de/themen/energiewende-atomkraft/atommuell/usa-atommuellkippe-der-welt The German article and most probably the interview is by Lisa Bender 26.09.2014 and entitled: “USA – ATOMMÜLLKIPPE DER WELT” (USA-Nuclear Waste Dump of the World). (Emphasis our own).