France says no to German nuclear waste - minister
BERLIN - France has refused to accept German nuclear waste shipments due to start after the end of a two-year ban that followed a scandal over radiation leaks from containers, a German minister said on Saturday.
With no reprocessing facilities of its own, Germany has in the past sent waste from its reactors for treatment at the La Hague plant in northern France run by state-owned Cogema.
Germany said last month it would be ready in a few weeks to end its self-imposed ban on shipments, provoking protests by thousands of anti-nuclear campaigners.
But Environment Minister Juergen Trittin said France had insisted that Germany, which committed itself this year to a gradual withdrawal from atomic energy, take previously reprocessed waste back - something it currently lacks the infrastructure to do.
"No one can say whether shipments can go ahead before early 2001 or not," Trittin said on the margins of a meeting of his ecologist Greens party in Berlin. He said the French government had informed Berlin of its position two weeks ago.
Nuclear industry bosses have warned they may have to close some of the countrys 19 reactors prematurely because they are running out of space to store the waste on-site.
A temporary central storage site is under construction near the Lower Saxony town Gorleben but it does not currently have the rail facilities to take in waste.
Trittin, a committed opponent of nuclear power, repeated a government pledge to the nuclear industry that the waste storage problem would not be allowed to endanger plant operation.
Under a deal with Germanys top utility firms envisaging a total pull-out from nuclear power by around the mid-2020s, waste shipments have been sanctioned until 2005.
The previous, staunchly pro-nuclear government of Helmut Kohl imposed the ban on waste shipments after it emerged that shipments had for years been sent through the country leaking radiation many times above permitted levels.
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE
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