October 31, 2001 Wednesday, Copyright 2001 Agence France Presse, SECTION: International News
A US-based nuclear group has warned that a nuclear reactor planned for construction in Germany and slated to use weapons-grade uranium is at risk of terrorist attack, in a press release received in Berlin Wednesday.

The Washington-based Nuclear Control Institute said it had sent a letter to Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder warning that a new nuclear reactor, awaiting final approval in the southern state of Bavaria to begin operations with bomb-grade uranium fuel, could be targeted by terrorists.

"It is highly imprudent to present such an extremely tempting target to Osama Bin Laden and other terrorists of his ilk, who have repeatedly sought to obtain this material in Europe," the institute said. German government officials were not immediately available for comment.

The letter from the institute's president, Paul Leventhal, and senior policy analyst, Alan Kuperman said the new FRM-II reactor at the Technical University-Munich in Garching, Bavaria, was currently slated to use up to 360 kilograms of bomb-grade, highly enriched uranium (HEU) fuel by the year 2010. The institute said this amount of uranium was equivalent to "dozens of bombs."

It cited Manhattan Project physicist Luis Alvarez, who wrote that "terrorists, if they had such material, would have a good chance of setting off a high-yield explosion simply by dropping one half of the material onto the other half." The institute said the Bavarian reactor had received its first two construction licenses, and was waiting for a third operating license from the federal government to load fuel and commence operations.

The institute urged Schroeder "to deny the third operating license (3.TEG) for the FRM-II on compelling national security grounds," the press release said.

The institute referred to the September 11 terror attacks in the United States, believed to have been carried out by 19 men hijacking four commercial planes.

"The question you should ask, Mr. Chancellor, is whether the FRM-II at Garching can be defended against 19 well-armed, suicidal terrorists attacking from four different directions," it said.
The institute proposed that the reactor instead be converted prior to start-up to low-enriched uranium (LEU), which is unsuitable for weapons.

It cited studies by the US Argonne National Laboratory and Germanys Darmstadt University that such conversion is possible without reducing the quality or competitiveness of German scientific research.
"All high-power research reactors built in the West since 1978 use LEU fuel, so the FRM-II would be competing on a level playing field," the institute said.

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