La Hague, France, Nov 9, 1998


Greenpeace today announced that it had discovered high levels of aerial contamination in the surroundings of Cogema's plutonium reprocessing facility.

Greenpeace sampled the air at an altitude of between 60 and 120 metres and up to 1km from the plant's main discharge stacks.  These samples were analyzed by the University of Gent, Belgium, and were found to contain over 90,000 Bq/m3 of the radioactive noble gas Krypton-85 (Kr-85). This value contrasts sharply with the world average radioactivity in air of between 1-2 Bq/m3. In a computer model developed by NOAA (Air Resources Lab.)
Greenpeace showed that Cogema's aerial discharges contaminate the air throughout most of Western Europe, eventually this air moves around the planet.

A Greenpeace sampling team has been on site for two weeks to conduct a research program into the aerial releases and consequent contamination of the environment by Cogema's plant. Using professional kite flyers and industrial-sized kites with samples pipes, Greenpeace was able to sample air at various altitudes and wind directions around the facility. After 11 days of training and tuning the equipment, the first sample was taken
on Wednesday, November 4th.

"Our first result is shocking, when it is considered that the background level is 90,000 less, but its only a small first step in trying to understand more about atmospheric contamination from Cogema's plutonium factory," said Diederik Samsom of Greenpeace. "Reprocessing is such a polluting industry that Cogema has turned the air radioactive," said Samsom.

Cogema is known to be the single largest source of aerial radioactivity in the world and is rapidly increasing its gaseous discharges. Last year Cogema discharged up to 300.000 TBq1 (TeraBecquerel) of radioactivity into the atmosphere. This is an increase of nearly 500% in less than 8 years. 
No data on levels of Kr-85 in the air has been made public by Cogema, despite their claims that they monitor extensively around the plant. However, only three days ago, two weeks after Greenpeace began sampling for Kr-85, the French government Institute for Nuclear Safety Protection, (IPSN) distributed a preliminary paper containing figures on Krypton-85 contamination in the environment. The IPSN figures on Kr-85 contamination on ground level, confirm the worrying picture of large contamination levels in the air around La Hague. Greenpeace is calling for full public disclosure of aerial monitoring data for contamination around the Cogema plant and wider area.

"Very little data has ever been published about atmospheric  radioactive pollution from reprocessing plants. And yet millions of cubic metres of contaminated air is pumped out every day. Cogema is conducting a nuclear experiment on the environment and human health," said Samsom .

Spent fuel from French nuclear power plants, as well as overseas clients in Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland and  Japan is reprocessed at the la Hague plant.

A dispersion model released by Greenpeace reveals how the discharged radioactivity spreads over large parts of Europe, covering France, UK, Belgium, Netherlands and Germany with   radioactivity levels sometimes up to 100 times or more above background.

"Those countries that dumped their waste on France are now receiving some of it back through atmospheric pollution. They are as responsible for this environmental problem as Cogema," said Samsom. "It's clear that this dangerous nuclear cycle can only be stopped by ending reprocessing."

The French government has announced that it intends to hold a public consultation for a new license for Cogema's radioactive discharges, and site license, but after more than one year there is still no date for such a process.

1 - The NOAA air dispersal model is available upon request, as
well as the GPI nuclear campaign website, address:

2-TBq/m3 translates as - Tera Becquerel cubic metre. 1.1 TBq =
1,000,000,000,000 Bq.

Bearbeitet am: 11.11.1998/ad

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