Nuclear waste from Germany exported for disposal in Russia
A company in Germany that enriches uranium for fuel rod production for nuclear power plants has started exporting radioactive waste to Russia again after a 10-year break due to safety concerns over the material's handling at the target location, Malte Kreutzfeldt writes in Tageszeitung (taz). The British-Dutch-German group Urenco, which is partly owned by energy companies RWE and E.ON, operates the enrichment facility in Gronau, North Rhine-Westphalia, and has agreed to export up to 12,000 tonnes of depleted uranium to Yekaterinburg, Russia, between 2019 and 2022, the article says. The export is said to be legal as the waste product, uranium hexafluoride, is not declared as radioactive waste but instead as a "recyclable material", even though up to 80 percent of it could not be reused properly. "This restart of exports to Russia is obviously only about finding a cheap dump for considerable amounts of nuclear waste," says Hubertus Zdebel of the Left Party, who laid bare Urenco's exports with a parliamentary inquiry to the environment ministry (BMU).
Germany will close its last nuclear power plant in 2022 but fuel rod production will not be affected by the country's nuclear exit. In their coalition agreement, the governing CDU/CSU alliance and SPD merely said they would "assess" how producing nuclear fuel for use abroad could be ended in a legally sound way. Germany has no final nuclear waste repository but began its search earlier this year. The government plans to find a suitable site somewhere in the country by 2031.