Nov. 19, 2016
On November 19, 2016, the BUND NRW and the Nature and Environmental Protection Academy NRW held the seminar “Pebble bed reactors, thorium and transmutation: the final straws of the atomic lobby" instead of.
- Jurgen Streich (Review)
- Uwe Hiksch (Overview worldwide)
- Horst Blume held a lecture on the resistance against the THTR in the FRG and in South Africa, which we document here:
Pebble bed reactors, thorium and transmutation: the final straws of the atomic lobby
Resistance to the THTR in Germany and South Africa
BI Hamm is now over 40 years old and its history is rich in experiences and events. So the question arose as to which experiences I emphasize today and which I neglect.
In my lecture I will emphasize some local peculiarities, but also show how we have dealt with international issues in particular over the past 15 years South Africa, have worked.
Construction of the THTR began in 1971 when many of the founding members were too young to care about the subject. It was not until 1975 that some of us listened up when we heard from the farmers who were resisting a planned nuclear power plant in Wyhl without violence. At that time I was a member of the DFG / VK and we dealt with the topic of nuclear weapons and organized ourselves in a separate working group to prepare the foundation of a citizens' initiative against nuclear power plants.
At the same time, the Westphalian Lippische Landjugend obtained information and organized well-attended discussion events. At the same time, a group of young Gandhians from a non-violent action group from Arnsberg and later Dortmund sought contact with us.
In February 1976, after a long preparatory phase, the BI was founded with around 40 members. Since the discussion date for a second nuclear power plant was due in Hamm, we only had 6 weeks to prepare. Peter Book came from Wyhl and supported us. So we could learn from the southern German experience.
In 1976 a tent camp took place near the THTR on a farmer's field. Students from Münster and recently founded citizens' initiatives from the area took part. The rural youth staged their own open-air theater performances in the surrounding villages and some students sang self-penned moritos on the subject. These were also forms of communication that were still practiced at the time.
Occupation of the VEW information center
During this time, the United Electricity Works opened a newly completed information center next to the THTR for 4 million DM.
Together with our Gandhian-trained friends around Theo Hengesbach from Dortmund, we meticulously prepared to occupy the space in front of the information center in order to set up our own information tent. All participants in this action were instructed beforehand by means of a leaflet how this explicitly non-violent action should take place and why this form of action was chosen. The police officers present were given special flights on which our concerns and the non-violent nature of the event were explained. There was also a press release for the media.
The space was easily occupied, the information tent and a sausage grill were set up and the police officers also came to eat sausages together in a trusting manner. This one day event was a great success and received very positive coverage in the media.
Rally in the village
A few weeks later a well-attended rally took place in a village near the THTR, also in the rural area, for which we prepared ourselves with non-violent training. We were guided by the German-American Erich Bachmann, one of the THTR cooling tower occupants from 1986. Problem: The Maoist-oriented Communist League of West Germany had announced that it would abuse our event for its own self-expression, which we did not want to put up with. So we practiced dealing with these people in role-playing games.
In the years that followed, more and more citizens' groups were founded in many cities, but many preferred to drive thousands of miles to Brokdorf once or twice a year instead of facing the difficult situation on site. Gandhi once called such behavior "joy in exciting activity". For the THTR itself, only relatively few people in the towns surrounding Hamm worked continuously for the THTR.
Of course, it also played a role that the THTR was already under construction and supposedly shortly before its completion. But that dragged on. It took longer and longer. Was there still something to be done after all?
For this reason we decided to take legal action against a total of 17 partial construction permits. A litigation group supported the 3 plaintiffs. We collected over a hundred thousand DM for the trials. We issued a “legal protection share” with a nice picture and started a big campaign in countless alternative newspapers and in various daily newspapers.
Once up to 100 people even went to a court hearing and the media reported extensively. The complaints were dismissed, but one time we had a six-week construction freeze, which made many people sit up and take notice.
The process group familiarized itself with the complex matter and in this way we learned more and more details about the problems this reactor caused. - Although the reactor was shut down in 1989, the disputes over these processes and their costs dragged on until the end of the 90s.
Despite many difficulties and problems, the THTR still went into operation. But it kept coming to a standstill.
The 1986 accident
When the accident at the THTR became known a few days after the Chernobyl reactor disaster in 1986 and significantly increased radioactive levels were measured in Hamm, many rallies and blockades of citizens and farmers with tractors took place in front of the THTR in the three following years. A number of new initiatives arose in Hamm and the surrounding area.
Farmers and consumers
But the main bearers of the resistance were the "farmers and consumers". We got on well with the local police. When hundreds of people came from far away, we would withdraw and come back a few days or weeks later. It was an eventful time.
The crowd in front of the reactor temporarily swelled to 7.000 people and vented their anger and despair in sometimes drastic actions, but always remained non-violent.
Treckertreck to Düsseldorf
A much-noticed three-day trek through the Ruhr area to Düsseldorf put the SPD state government under additional pressure.
In the ten years before, the citizens' initiative had built up structures and carried out intensive public relations work, which now paid off in the broad participation of many people. There were also financial problems for the operator. The mood also turned in the otherwise THTR-friendly parties.
Now it was only a question of how the THTR could be shut down without too much loss of face on the part of the nuclear parties and horrific recourse claims by the operator.
After the THTR was shut down in 1989, many activists ran out of steam after this great success. I think it's completely normal for there to be ups and downs.
But as early as 1992 the so-called tritium water accident in the "basement" of the THTR had to be questioned critically. In the 90s, 59 Castor transports with the radioactive fuel element balls from the THTR to Ahaus took place. Here, too, the BI worked together with the initiatives in the Münsterland and took part in demonstrations in Ahaus and Münster.
New situation from 2000
After 2000 the situation changed again. Positive reports about pebble-bed reactors accumulated in the media, the Green Foreign Minister Fischer signed a cooperation agreement for THTR research in South Africa and the red-green governments in the federal government and in North Rhine-Westphalia financed and tolerated the further development of THTR in the FRG. Mainly involved was the FZJ and TÜV Rheinland. That was a very annoying development. But what did we have to do to counter that?
Since 1987 we have published the THTR-Rundbrief, which at times appeared monthly. The length ranged from 32 to 100 pages and was more of a documentary character. The total number of pages was around 2.200 until 1995. From then on it appeared with 6 to 20 pages in an edition of 120 copies.
With such a small newspaper it was impossible to counterbalance the many Pro-THTR articles in the daily press. The internet also became more and more important.
That is why we gladly accepted the offer from our member Werner Neubauer, who now lives in Berlin, to create a website with "reaktorpleite.de". Not only did the circulars that continue to appear in writing appear here, but the presence has also been continuously expanded. It takes several years for a site to establish itself on the Internet and on Google.
After 14 years now, we have an average of one hundred thousand visits to the various pages per month. In order to achieve such a result, this homepage has to be worked on every week.
We also often receive inquiries from journalists because we can be reached easily with this homepage. - However, they still have to learn to use the internal search function. Many are too easy to do this and ask questions that have long been answered on our website.
With the help of our homepage we have created an important tool to provide information about the THTR and its incidents. I would like to briefly outline here how this has developed in the case of South Africa and how we have tried to exert influence with very modest means.
We initially paid little attention to developments in South Africa. We only reconstructed afterwards what happened on the subject of PBMR in South Africa in the early years.
During the apartheid period in 1987, Klaus Knizia from VEW visited South Africa to make the THTR palatable to the regime there. He was also supported by officials from Forschungszentrum Jülich. Critical reports of this outrageous cooperation with the apartheid regime increased in the media. It is very telling that after the decline of the THTR in Germany, the operators found their best friends here of all places.
And it is even more astonishing that after the dissolution of the racist regime, the new ANC government after 1994 stuck to the intentions of its predecessors and also wanted to build a THTR.
The intensive contact with Stefan Cramer in South Africa was extremely important for us. He was the head of the green-affiliated Heinrich Böll Foundation and was highly motivated to oppose a reactor that was to be built in South Africa with the support of red-green governments. That was a very special situation.
Stefan translated parts of our reactor bankruptcy page into English because the automatic translation functions on the Internet were not that good at that time. He worked with the environmental organization Earthlife Africa and passed this information on.
Stefan and I often wrote in German about the dangers of the PBMR in the bimonthly magazine "afrika süd". This is the newspaper of the anti-apartheid movement and its successors.
A large number of activities in South Africa followed in 2003 and 2004.
The Böll Foundation managed to hold a dialogue hearing between parliament and citizens' initiatives.
At the same time, we contacted the South African Embassy in Berlin in Germany and expressed our concerns.
Citizen application in Hamm
At the same time, we and several other environmental groups in Hamm submitted a citizens' application to the complaints committee of the city of Hamm. Our aim was to organize an exchange of experiences about the THTR between Hamm and Cape Town. The administration of Hamm had to deal with the problems of the THTR by necessity and had also hired someone who had worked on this area for several years. - The application was rejected as expected, but the issue was considered and discussed in Hamm.
Preparations for the PBMR began in South Africa over the next two years. - And of course in Germany too, that shouldn't be forgotten !! - At least five German companies supplied key system components for South Africa:
+ Meridium in Walldorf supplied software products
+ SGL Carbon from Wiesbaden and Meitingen supplied graphite
+ EHR from Essen supplied piping systems
+ RWE-Nukem from Hanau produces the spherical fuel elements
+ Uhde, daughter of KruppThyssen, from Dortmund was supposed to build the fuel element factory in the Pelindaba nuclear center
Since Uhde is in Dortmund near Hamm, it made sense to intervene here from us.
In 2005 I wrote a lot about Uhde's role as a subsidiary of Rheinmetall with this company in the 100th anniversary edition of the THTR circular.
Friedrich Ostendorff, blockade builder from 1986 and meanwhile a green member of the Bundestag, called on Foreign Minister Fischer to prohibit the export license for nuclear components. He also turned to the then Minister of Economics of North Rhine-Westphalia.
We contacted the “critical shareholders”, who in turn gave a speech on this topic at the annual Kruppthyssen shareholders' meeting.
In 2007 we held a small rally in front of Uhde in Dortmund with some groups and then drove on to Münster in a car parade to demonstrate against the NRW nuclear facilities.
In 2008 a WDR film team traveled to Hamm and South Africa and reported XNUMX minutes about our collaboration.
All of these activities were basically modest in scope and performed by very few people. The majority of the environmental groups were hardly interested in this "exotic" topic and had to be motivated every time to participate. But the activities were very specific, and that seems very important to me.
In 2009 the construction of the PBMR in was abandoned. Not because of our activities, but because it was too big and too expensive for South Africa. Over a billion dollars has been put into this pointless project.
Hamm - KiKK study
Finally, I would like to briefly come back to the situation in Hamm. In 2008, the so-called child cancer study (KiKK study) be performed. Only not at the THTR. It was said that it was not in operation long enough and only a prototype because of its many incidents. Many people in Hamm did not understand this approach.
As BI, we organized a collection of signatures for the KiKK study in Hamm and especially in the surrounding villages at the reactor. Leaflets and lists were passed on and very well received. Many people were active themselves and collected signatures. It was a very positive experience. The media response was enormous. A total of 4.000 signatures were collected.
It was a good thing that I knew the press spokesman for the then Environment Minister Gabriel from earlier. It was Michael Schroeren who was the editor of the "Grass Roots Revolution" in the 70s. Today I am co-editor of this newspaper.
I called him to ask him to do something for us. He did that too. Received us in front of the ministry, praised our civic engagement and discussed with us for 2 hours. Of course, he couldn't really influence the decision of his superior. But we were present in a lot of media with this campaign. One could not hope for more under the given circumstances.
Through our activities, many people were made aware of possible cancer cases in the vicinity of the THTR. About 20 contacted us by phone, email or handwritten letters and reported cases of cancer in their families or in the neighborhood. We have often talked in our little BI about how we should deal with this information.
As interesting and important as these notes are, they are statistically difficult to process and classify. The government authorities failed to systematically record cancer cases from the start.
However, it cannot be our job as a citizens' initiative to count ourselves now and to make all sorts of - possibly daring - statistical comparisons and speculations.
Our task is to point out grievances through demonstrations, campaigns and public relations work. Internationally and of course also in North Rhine-Westphalia.
Addendum to Euratom, EU and Generation IV:
Since 2004, at various demonstrations by the environmental movement, we have distributed various leaflets several times, complaining about the lack of concern with Generation IV and the EU funding of the HTR line.
In the last 12 years I have written a lot of articles on the EU, Euratom, Generation IV reactors and HTR development. Here is a small selection in chronological order:
2004: EU funding for HTR research
2005: The EU Nuclear Framework. Generation IV
2007: The forgotten Generation IV. The environmental movement ignores EU efforts to promote a new reactor line
2008: From THTR to Generation IV: The nuclear industry sets the course for the coming decades!
2010: HTR research and Generation IV research in Germany until today. Concrete listing
2011: HTR research continues. Concrete numbers
2014: Generation IV - collaboration and China
2015: Setting the course for the next 10 years for Generation IV
Search all contents of the 'reactor bankruptcy'
Keyword: Pebble bed reactor
Further to: Newspaper article 2016
- The THTR-Rundbrief is published by 'BI Umwelt Hamm e. V. ' - Postfach 1242 - 59002 Hamm 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!
BI environmental protection Hamm