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The THTR Circulars from 2003
THTR Circular No. 86 Nov. 2003
"High temperature reactor is of the greatest military interest." That was the headline of a press release that Lothar Hahn sent to the media on January 10.01.1989, 1988. In 1990 and XNUMX, the former chairman of the German Reactor Safety Commission, as an independent scientist at the Öko-Institut, did extensive research on the "assessment of domestic and foreign concepts for small high-temperature reactors". In other words, about the exact THTR variant that is now to be built as a PBMR in South Africa for export purposes.
The following information is essentially based on the 223-page report that Lothar Hahn prepared on behalf of Greenpeace in 1990 and on the report written in 1988 "The small high-temperature reactor - the last straw of the nuclear industry?"
In 1988 Hahn stated: "The question of the possibility of using fissile material for technical weapons purposes has so far been kept out of the discussion about the THTR with the utmost care." Not only the highly enriched, but also the low enriched uranium can in principle be branched off at different stations. An enrichment level of 8% is intended for the PBMR. At three percent, one speaks of low-enriched uranium.
Plutonium diversion is possible
The possibility of branching off during reactor operation, in which fuel elements can be removed or added without interrupting continuous power operation, is a special feature of HTR technology and is mentioned by the operators as a special advantage.
Because of the special handiness of the tennis ball-sized spherical fuel elements, it is technically possible at any time during the dwell time on the reactor building to branch off part of it. There are large numbers of unmarked balls in the reactor, so that removal can easily be camouflaged by adding dummy elements. The metrological and accounting recording of the fuel elements by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and EURATOM cannot offer complete protection against diversion due to inadequate measurement methods, measurement inaccuracies and the random sampling nature of the monitoring.
The material for an atomic bomb can be produced in two months
The production of weapons-grade plutonium is possible with the help of the HTR. For this purpose, completely normal fuel elements with low-enriched uranium could be used, which would only have to be removed from the fuel cycle earlier than normal fuel elements in order to achieve the most favorable plutonium composition possible.
In addition to the remainder of the uranium-235, the fuel elements contain the high-quality nuclear fuel U-233, which in principle is also suitable for weapons purposes. The spent fuel in all future high-temperature reactors contains - similar to the light water reactor - plutonium and other raw materials. The mixture of plutonium isotopes is basically suitable for weapons.
A spent fuel element made from low-enriched uranium 235 contains approx. 0,1 g of plutonium. Consequently, the material for an atomic bomb could theoretically be obtained by processing 50.000 spent fuel element balls, ie with a throughput of 1000 balls per day in less than two months.
Tritium from the THTR for nuclear warheads
The use of the noble gas helium in the HTR produces radioactive tritium in a reaction triggered by neutrons, which can be used for the construction of nuclear warheads.
The task of tritium is to increase the explosive power of nuclear weapons or to achieve the same explosive power with less fissile material (plutonium or uranium). Tritium is therefore required for almost all nuclear warheads in order to greatly increase the efficiency of the bomb and thus the explosive power. Tritium is irreplaceable, especially for smaller warheads.
Since it decays with a half-life of approx. 12 years, it has to be replaced from time to time in the existing warheads. There is therefore the "danger" of tritium bottlenecks if there are not enough reactors available to produce tritium. This is one reason why military strategists around the world want to promote HTR development.
No international control options
In contrast to plutonium, tritium does not fall under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and is therefore not subject to any international control! There are no legal possibilities to check whether the HTR is used for military tritium production. Apart from that, the metrological control of tritium is extremely difficult due to its physical properties.
If an emerging or developing country wants to keep tritium production secret in order not to expose itself to international criticism, the HTR is particularly cheap.
Tritium separation systems, which are required to remove the tritium that has formed from the elements, are state of the art. In addition, they can be obtained without any problems, as is shown by the example of Pakistan, where a tritium separation system has been delivered from the Federal Republic with the approval of German authorities.
In this way, the nuclear armament of the Third World is promoted and an arms race is instigated that destabilizes entire regions.
US military interest in HTR
On August 03.08.1988rd, 110, the American Department of Energy, which is also responsible for military reactors, announced that it would build a high-temperature reactor in modular design (i.e. with 165 to XNUMX MW as in the PBMR) for the production of tritium for the American nuclear weapons program in the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory (INEL). The manufacturer of this MHTGR (modular high-temperature gas-cooled reactor) is said to be the company General Atomic. The coveted weapon-grade tritium is produced in the core of the reactor in the lithium-containing fuel elements used specifically for this purpose. This is probably the first concrete project for a modular high-temperature reactor in the world to be a military one. At the same time, for economic reasons, among other things, the high-temperature reactor is so unattractive for civil energy generation that it has not yet found a buyer in the USA. An American HTR provider has even blatantly tried to penetrate the armaments sector with the military option.
The conclusion of Lothar Hahn's press release from January 10.01.1989th, XNUMX is still valid today under a red-green government: "The HTR module is therefore an extremely sensitive system from an armament point of view. If the federal government continues to actively promote the export of such plants, to whichever country, it will itself reduce its alleged efforts to prevent arms exports in the nuclear sector to absurdity. "
We have put the chapters of Lothar Hahn's report from 1988, which deal with proliferation at the HTR, on the Internet and in a three-page format Letter confronted the Federal Ministry of Research with the findings outlined above. Furthermore, we have expressed that we would like a critical dialogue and an opinion on this topic, that we would like a current report on the risk of proliferation to be useful and that the Federal Ministry of Research will notify the responsible South African government agencies of any critical comments on the PBMR project brings.
"On behalf of Minister Bulmahn, I thank you for your letters of June 2nd and September 25th, in which you particularly emphasize the risk of proliferation that could arise from South African reactor development. The Minister asked me to answer you. This has unfortunately been delayed due to the holiday and the corresponding backlog of processes to be processed, which I apologize for.
The aim of the federal government is to reduce the risks emanating from nuclear power plants worldwide; this relates to both civilian use and armaments aspects. In this sense, the so-called "atomic consensus", ie the orderly termination of the use of nuclear energy for generating electricity, was reached for the Federal Republic of Germany. However, the Federal Government's ability to influence the development, construction and operation of nuclear reactors abroad is extremely limited.
Against this background, it makes sense to work towards the application of German safety standards wherever nuclear reactors are operated or newly developed abroad, wherever there is an opportunity to do so. In this sense, the activities of Forschungszentrum Jülich, which contributes its expertise, ie its expert knowledge, on a commercial basis in order to make the reactor development there safer, are entirely in the interests of the Federal Government. Corresponding services are also available from research institutions in other countries, but then possibly with a lower safety standard. "
"(...) While other states, such as Iran, for example, have been forced to enforce increased controls in a publicly effective manner by Foreign Minister Fischer, among others, the red-green federal government has in recent years supported the export of basic research for the PBMR to South Africa all over the world Line fails.
Like a prayer wheel, the responsible ministry repeats the same formulas over and over again about the alleged nuclear phase-out and the intended application of German safety standards abroad. Why should there be a nuclear phase-out in Germany when the nuclear power plants are so safe here?
The Ministry does not respond to our specific criticism with a single syllable, nor does it comment on our very modest demand that the South African authorities should at least have access to critical statements on the THTR or PBMR.
The ministry's answer reveals the federal government's total helplessness and lack of conception, because the nuclear lobby in science and industry can pursue its own interests under it without great difficulty.
In the case of the funding of the fundamental development work of the PBMR in the Jülich Research Center, the federal government has given up all political options and has allowed itself to be made a compliant extras for the global nuclear industry.
Who is right??
"Finally, I would like to point out that Forschungszentrum Jülich does not provide any support for the construction of new reactors in South Africa." (Bulmahn, Minister for Education and Research in a letter to BI on May 14.05.2003, XNUMX)
"This research project is intended to coordinate international cooperation in the design of several fourth-generation reactors, including the South African PBMR, for which the basic development work was carried out at Forschungszentrum Jülich. (Internet site of" Atomwirtschaft ", Oct. 2003)
"The cost of the PBMR planned in Koeberg was estimated at 1,6 billion US dollars. The operating company PBMR Ltd. has already spent 230 million US dollars on this project and is now looking for foreign investors. The company asked the South African government whether it makes an unconditional commitment to find new investors. ESKOM has signed a contract undertaking to order ten PBMR if the demonstration model in Koeberg is successful. " (From: WISE of 10.10.2003/XNUMX/XNUMX)
As can be seen in the small press review below, the WA and FUgE-News reported on the citizens' application initiated by us for an "information exchange between Hamm and Cape Town on the dangers of high-temperature reactors". The application was submitted to the Appeals Committee on November 05.11.2003th, 19.11. His next meeting is on November XNUMXth.
The following organizations support this application:
Citizens' Initiative for Environmental Protection Hamm eV; BUND, group Hamm; Die Naturfreunde, Gruppe Hamm; Peace Network Hamm; Forum for Environment and Justice (FuGE), Hamm; German Communist Party, Hamm; Alliance 90 / The Greens, KV Hamm
The following people support this application:
Wolfgang Komo, Hamm; Jutta Haschemi-Röben (district representative in Hamm-Uentrop), Renate Brackelmann, Hamm; Michael Bömelburg, Hamm; Norbert Gloßmann (Deputy Chairman of ver.di Hamm)
On October 10.10.2003, XNUMX, at the invitation of the Böll Foundation NRW, a group of South Africans visited the Ruhr area to get to know alternative energy projects better. Horst Blume also took part in the event as a representative of BI and gave a lecture on the THTR, which was translated by the translator. The participants also received an information sheet in English with excerpts from our website and contact options. Several interesting conversations took place on the sidelines of the visits. One participant demonstratively even wore a T-shirt with a slogan against the PBMR. A sign that this reactor is definitely an important topic in South Africa.
And this just by the way: The company Wenutec Automationstechnik GmbH & CoKG from Lünen has built and supplied screw tensioning machines for the reactor pressure vessels for the two existing nuclear power plant blocks in Koeberg near Cape Town, next to which the PBMR is to be built ...
Small press review
In the last few weeks we have tried very hard to bring up the topic of nuclear power in South Africa in some media and to publicize our website.
In the TAZ-Ruhr on September 25.09.2003th, XNUMX Elmar Kok reported on the current development in South Africa and on the visit of a non-governmental organization in the Ruhr area, which wanted to find out more about alternative energy at the invitation of the Böll-Stiftung NRW. The day before, the delegation was invited to the Düsseldorf Ministry of the Environment. The editor smugly writes: "The ESKOM plans should not be discussed there. 'The topic is not on the agenda," says Bärbel Höhn's (Greens) Ministry succinctly. "
In the October issue of the October issue of the newsletter for the Greens in Münster, our BI member Thomas Rabe reminded, among other things, that neither Environment Minister Trittin nor Foreign Minister Fischer responded to critical questions from the Green District Association or the citizens' initiative. He suggests that appropriate motions should be submitted from Münster to the next Federal Delegate Assembly.
The "International Doctors for the Prevention of Nuclear War, Doctors in Social Responsibility" publish the very well-designed magazine "IPPNW forum" six times a year in large numbers. We succeeded in bringing a full-page overview article by Horst Blume into this magazine in the October issue (No. 83). In addition to a nice photo from the Greenpeace campaign in Koeberg last year, it is also pointed out that there are also small HTR test facilities in China, Japan and India. In conclusion, the author dares the following look into the future: "If the current opposition from CDU / CSU / FDP should come to power in three years, then they will massively promote the expansion of HTR technology - this is how it did in 2002 announced in the minority vote of the Enquete Commission 'Sustainable Energy Supply'. "
"Der Spiegel", which we sent to more than a dozen press releases and circulars this year, reported the following in the article "Return of the Reactors" on October 06.10.2003, 300: "The high-temperature reactor THTR-1600 only ran for three years due to numerous technical breakdowns - a financial fiasco. Now, however, precisely this technology is becoming popular again. Its alleged advantage: Due to the design, a core meltdown and thus the nuclear disaster in high-temperature reactors (HTR) should be excluded. (...) The main attraction: Even if the cooling fails, the core should not be able to heat up to over 86 degrees Celsius - a temperature at which core meltdown is impossible. (...) In fact, the types of power plant whose concepts are now being pursued have almost always failed spectacularly in the past. The high-temperature reactor from Hamm -Uentrop, for example, never got rid of its security deficiencies and is still a burden on the North Rhine-Westphalian state budget to this day . " - Unfortunately, a letter from us was not printed, but on the day the mirror was published, at least XNUMX visitors dialed into our website using the Google search engine alone.
In the October issue of 2.500 copies, the Hammer Eine-Welt- und Umweltmagazin "FugE-news" printed an article on the PBMR by Horst Blume and the application to the complaints committee for an exchange of information between Hamm and Cape Town.
On October 22.10.2003nd, 28 an article about the work of the BI on the PBMR appeared in the local edition of the "Westfälischer Anzeiger" under the heading "To the other end of the world - The citizens' initiative for environmental protection is still active after 80 years". His conclusion: "They have never been as valuable as they are today." In addition to references to the citizens' application, a photo of a large demonstration in front of the THTR from the XNUMXs adorned the article.
The magazine "afrika süd", which has been published by the "information center southern africa" (issa) since 1972, published in its issue 5/2003 at the end of October the article "Wintering at the Cape" by Stefan Cramer, head of the regional office of the Böll Foundation for the southern region Africa.
On a total of three pages and illustrated with five photos, the author describes how the HTR technology "hibernates" in South Africa in order to possibly be further developed by the USA in the future: "Plans with the draft of the National Energy Bill recently introduced to Congress The Bush administration turned the trend in favor of the nuclear industry. (...) The security problems have not yet been dealt with conclusively, because in the USA, too, a revitalization of the nuclear industry can only be enforced with fundamentally improved safety standards New reactor types of the so-called '4th generation', which should be so safe that their operators can leave them to themselves. 'Walk-away safe' is the name of the magical formula that has only one flaw; these reactor types only exist on the Only the South African PBMR type exists as a technologically well-planned variant, which will be implemented in the near future seems possible in the last few years. From this perspective, the South African nuclear project takes on a whole new meaning. "
Stefan Cramer competently introduces the reader to the previous nuclear policy in South Africa, illuminates the social background of the development and goes into the other existing nuclear factories and storage facilities in the country. The article that is well worth reading is on the Internet at http://www.issa-bonn.org/ to find.
The current November issue of the monthly newspaper "Graswurzelrevolution" reported about the THTR resistance 25 years ago.
In the "Stadtanzeiger" belonging to the WA newspaper group, this Sunday newspaper reported on November 02.11.2003nd, XNUMX in a longer article with two photos about the work of the BI on the THTR, the shutdown problems and costs it encountered, as well as the PBMR and its proliferation risks. Information about the website rounded off the report.
"We now have a beautiful green Bible for Hamm," commented Jörg Holsträter, Chairman of the Environment Committee, yesterday on the presentation of the forest development concept for the city on the Lippe. "(WA dated 16/09.2003/XNUMX)
Lord Mayor Hunsteger-Petermann promised at a press conference that, in addition to promoting compensatory and substitute measures, a "clearly five-digit amount" should be made available for forest reproduction over the next few years. The concept developed by Horst Blume (see THTR circular no. 83) was received positively in the committees and district representatives. A CDU district representative from Heessen: "I have seldom seen such a good and understandable work." (WA from October 02.10.2003nd, XNUMX)
- The THTR-Rundbrief is published by 'BI Umwelt Hamm e. V. ' issued and financed by donations.
- The THTR circular has meanwhile become a much-noticed information medium. However, there are ongoing costs due to the expansion of the website and the printing of additional information sheets.
- The THTR circular researches and reports in detail. In order for us to be able to do that, we depend on donations. We are happy about every donation!
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