Nuclear Transparency Watch has been warning for over a year about planned export of nuclear spent fuel from the Hungarian power plant Paks to the Russian reprocessing center Mayak. Although the Commission was aware of possible illegality the export took place on August 2014, by train, across Ukraine and regardless of the actual crisis.
NTW now publishes two letters received by a Hungarian member of NTW, Benedek Jávor (see his blog in Hungarian). The first comes from the Hungarian Atomic Energy Authority (OAH) (here in Hungarian, page 1, 2 ,3, 4) ; the second (in Hungarian) from Miklós Seszták, the Hungarian Minister for National Development. They bring evidence of a dangerous lack of legal clarity and do not answer to our interrogations. The informal English translations can be found here: letter of the OAH; letter of the Minister.
According to the OAH, the “purpose of the transportation is the temporary storage and non-military reprocessing of the spent fuel on the territory of the Russian Federation and the temporary storage and final disposal of the radioactive waste produced during the reprocessing.[section 3]”
The OAH makes a formal distinction between the spent fuel sent from Hungary to Russia for reprocessing and the resulting waste, whose “temporary storage and final disposal […] is the obligation of the Russian party”[Section 4, section 6]. Nevertheless they state at the same time that the ownership of the spent fuel will be transfe´rred to Russia too[Section 6].
Although this information clearly indicates that the aim is the final disposal of the spent fuel, the OAH denies this fact: ““the purpose of the transportation is not final disposal” [Section 5]. It seems that the Authority does not want to give a precise answer, which could determine whether the transportation was legal or not. Indeed according to the Euratom Directive 2011/70, art 4, “Where […] spent fuel is shipped for processing or reprocessing to a Member State or a third country, the ultimate responsibility for the safe and responsible disposal of those materials, including any waste as a by-product, shall remain with the Member State or third country from which the radioactive material was shipped.” If Hungary transported the waste from Paks for the purpose of final disposal then it violated the Euratom Directive.
This directive article underlines a second interesting point: despite the declarations of the Hungarian institutions, even the waste produced during reprocessing should remain under the responsibility of the Hungarian state. It could stay in Russia only if there were a final disposal facility, which is not the case.
The second letter was sent by Miklós Seszták, Hungarian Minister for National Development. In contrast with the OAH, he clearly admits that the damaged fuel rods were, indeed, transported for final disposal. Another sign of the utter confusion among the respective authorities over what they have done exactly or what they should tell about it.
Nevertheless the Minister explains the legality of the procedure by stressing that the shipment was based on an agreement ratified by the Euratom Supply Agency, that states that “all obligations and rights are transferred to the Russian party with the condition, in accordance with the Agreement, that the spent (encapsulated) fuel shall not be used for military purposes.”
As explained before, according to the directive 2011/70/Euratom, there should be no transfer of responsibility for spent fuel or radioactive waste regardless of what will be done with it.
These letters have been shared with the DG Energy of the European Commission. NTW is now waiting for a real stance from the European Commission regarding the legality of such shipment.