Nuclear Imperatives and Public Trust: Dealing with Radioactive Waste

By Luther J. Carter | Go to book overview

it is stored, when and by what routes it will be shipped, and by what means and at what strength it will be guarded.

In the case of the quarter ton of plutonium being returned from La Hague to Japan, the magnitude of the potential dangers perceived by the responsible officials was evident from the security precautions taken at the insistence of U.S. officials, who were involved because the plutonium had been separated from fuel of American origin. The shipment took place over about six weeks in October and November 1984. Approval of the security arrangements by the U.S. secretary of energy was given only after the original Japanese security plan had been substantially strengthened, for the Japanese had intended to ship the plutonium on the deck of a common and lightly guarded container ship.68 This vessel was to be routed through the Suez Canal and the waters of the Middle East, where terrorism is rife and several governments are considered proliferation-prone. In the end, as widely reported in France and other countries, the shipment went via the Panama Canal on a heavily guarded vessel--the Seishin Marie--that was specially equipped for the mission. The canal transit was made secretly in the dead of night, with two U.S. naval vessels as escorts (on the arrival of the Seishin Marie in Japan, see chapter 11).69


Conclusion

To sum up, the moves led by COGEMA to use plutonium in light water reactors bring to the fore the problems and issues that surround plutonium as an explosive nuclear material, and carry a risk of lowering public trust and confidence in nuclear power in Europe and throughout the world. This seems all the more unwise at a time when popular acceptance of nuclear power may turn on whether the nuclear enterprise in France and other countries can catch up with such major problems as the disposal of radioactive waste and--in light of Chernobyl--convince the public that power reactors are indeed as safe, manageable, and economically beneficial as the leaders of the enterprise believe them to be.

____________________
68
John J. Fialka "U.S. Approves Shipment of Plutonium to Japan from France for New Reactor," Wall Street Journal, July 7, 1984; Kennedy Maize, "Democrats Plea to President: Hold the Plutonium, Monsieur," The Energy Daily, August 7, 1984.
69
" Panama Protests Nighttime Movement of Plutonium Ship Through Canal," Nuclear Fuel, November 5, 1984. From start to finish the shipment was carried out in keeping with a security plan that DOE officials described to Congress and the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission as going beyond national and international standards, with "U.S. military units [escorting the shipment] in designated areas to minimize response time in the event of an incident." Ibid.

-333-

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Nuclear Imperatives and Public Trust: Dealing with Radioactive Waste
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Contents v
  • Preface ix
  • Introduction 1
  • Part 1 - Sources of Public Unease 7
  • 1 - Containment 9
  • 2 - A Technology Ahead of Itself 41
  • 3 - The Reprocessing Dilemma 91
  • Part 2 - Searching for a Waste Policy 127
  • 4 - Policy Struggles in the Bureaucracy 129
  • 5 - Conflict in the Host States 145
  • 6 - The Nuclear Waste Policy Act 195
  • Part 3 - Europe, Japan, and the International Waste Problem 231
  • Introduction to Part 3 233
  • 7 - The United Kingdom: Problems of Containment 235
  • 8 - Germany: Wastes, Fuel Cycle Choice, and Politics 265
  • Conclusion 288
  • 9 - Sweden: Robust Solutions 289
  • Conclusion 306
  • 10 - France: Commitment to Plutonium Fuel 307
  • Conclusion 333
  • 11 - Japan, the Pacific, and the Nuclear Allergy 335
  • Conclusion 367
  • 12 - Transnational Problems and the Need for Multinational Solutions 369
  • Conclusion 396
  • Part 4 - A Time to Act 399
  • 13 - Common Ground 401
  • Glossary, Acronyms, and Abbreviations 435
  • Name Index 449
  • Subject Index 455
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