STOP Highly Enriched Uranium
Bomb Grade Uranium for Garching’s atomic reactor - a deadly decision
The local Friends of the Earth group in Munic/Germany needs your support!

Please adopt the proposed letter to your circumstances, give the factsheet and then fax:

  • to your national government to make pressure on the German Government to STOP Germany starting highly enriched unranium processing.
  • to the three mentioned German Ministries who are involved in the decision making:

German Ministry for Education and Research
Mrs. Edelgard Bulmahn
Heinemannstr. 2
D-53175 Bonn
Fax: +49/228/57-3601

German Foreign Ministry
Mr. Joschka Fischer
Adenauerallee 99-103
D-53001 Bonn
Fax: +49/228/17-3402

German Ministry for Environment
Mr. Jürgen Trittin
Kennedyallee 5
D-53175 Bonn
Fax: +49/228/305-3225

Letter proposal

Dear Minister,

Siemens and the Technical University of Munich/Germany plan to replace the old nuclear research reactor FRM I with a new reactor, FRM II, for basic research.

FRM II will work with bomb grade highly enriched unranium (HEU). It will be the only newly built research reactor in the world which will do so.

By that, international agreements and work of almost twenty years would be ignored and abolished.

The usage of HEU for the FRM II would mean the end of a global movement of converting reactors from HEU to low enriched uranium (LEU).

With HEU, bomb grade fuel is directly available, making it even easier to divert for use in weapons. HEU, even if designed and delivered for peaceful research, is already the basic material for arms, and simply needs to be diverted.

With FRM II the door will be opened for research reactors to refuse conversion to LEU (low ennriched uranium) and continue using HEU. Alone in Germany two research reactors (Jülich and Berlin) probably intend to do so.

The global commerce with this bomb grade material would revive.

We ask you not to allow the construction of FRM II and to put all your political power into the - military and civil - nuclear free future.

We ask you to put your pressure onto the German Government not to start the production of highly enriched uranium which can easily be misused as bomb fuel.

Your sincerely,

Here are the facts:

Bomb Grade Uranium for Garching's atomic reactor - a deadly decision

In Garching, near Munich, the Technical University of Munich (TUM), together ith the Siemens company (general contractor), is building an atomic reactor. This reactor (called FRM II) will produce neutrons for basic research and will replace the old reactor from 1957, the legendary "Atomei" (it is called "Atomic egg" because of its shape). In August 1998 the foundations of the new reactor were finished and up until now two partial building permits have been granted. One is for the erection of the actual building and the technical installations, and the other is for the cold (non- nuclear) operation. The third partial building permit, that concerns the reactor core and the hot operation is expected to be granted in the year 2001.

The FRM II, in Bavaria, is the only new reactor under construction in Germany, and the only new research reactor in the world, which will work with bomb grade, highly enriched uranium (HEU). HEU a new type of fuel, highly enriched and with high density, has not been sufficiently tested and can be used for nuclear weapons.

The problem with HEU

In many countries, including the five nuclear states, there has been a proved connection between research reactors and the production of nuclear weapons.

The knowledge gained by scientific research in reactors is often misused for the development of nuclear weapons. Research reactors also provide an opportunity to non-nuclear countries to get directly in possession of fissile material for atomic bombs. When uranium is used in a reactor, a limited amount of the bomb grade material, plutonium, is produced, but it is only available after chemical reprocessing. With HEU, however, bomb grade fuel is directly available, making it even easier to divert for use in weapons. HEU, even if designed and delivered for peaceful research, is already the basic material for arms, and simply needs to be diverted. The research reactor of Garching is designed for uranium with an enrichment of 93% and will have an annual requirement of 40kg of this HEU. This is much more than the significant amount, established by the IAEO (International Atomic Energy Organisation).

In comparison to the "hightech - atomic bombs" of the five nuclear states, the construction of uranium bombs is quite simple. This is the route terrorists and many poor countries use to get into "the nuclear club" (the bombs Pakistan tested in 1998 were uranium - bombs). Because of this danger, there is a global interest in stopping the commerce of weapons grade fuel. For this reason, at the end of the 1970's an international program for Reduced Enrichment for Research and Test Reactors (RERTR) was started and many of the "nuclear states" signed on (the Republic of Germany was financially involved with 45.000.000 DM). One result of the program has been the development of a special uranium of high density (a silicid of uranium) to replace the HEU in the reactor cores. This material allows the conversion from HEU to low enriched uranium (LEU) without a remarkable loss of neutron density.

Outside of China, Lybia and the former Soviet Union, the FRM II in Bavaria, Germany would be the first research reactor built to use bomb-grade fuel since an international consensus supporting RERTR program was reached in 1980. The FRM II, however, is the only one to combine high enrichment uranium with the advantages of the high density uranium, which was especially developed to improve the LEU abilities for replacing HEU.

The international stance

The USA is only delivering weapon grade material to research reactors that have strict converting plans (from HEU to LEU), and those which are to be shut down soon. The position of Russia, another possible supplier, is ambivalent. There exists a "side agreement" between the Russian Federation and the USA, that includes a clause saying that Russia must not export HEU.

On the other hand, Russia has an agreement with France to supply HEU, but this has not been fulfilled for a long time. Surprisingly however, the first order arrived in December 1998, just as Russian scientists planned to start research at the French test reactor, ILL in Grenoble, even though the ILL has been slated to convert to LEU. Then in June 1998 the Russian government made a contract with Germany to supply 1200 kg HEU for the research reactor FRM II in Garching. The realisation of this contract would strengthen the French venture and the international commerce of HEU would expand rapidly.

The German line

May 1995 during the renewal of the "non proliferation treaty" (NPT) there was a declaration from eleven non-nuclear weapon states (Australia, Canada, Netherlands, Austria, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Hungary, Ireland, New Zealand) that they would not build any more research reactors with HEU. But the German delegation, in spite of the USA's opposition, modified one passage of the contract by adding the sentence, that the usage of LEU must be possible technically, economically and scientifically - a loophole for the Bavarian research reactor FRM II.

In 1993 The German parliament unanimously decided that HEU shouldn't be used in research reactors, as far as technically possible. The usage of LEU in the research reactor in Garching would be possible and was already proved by American scientists in 1991. There would have to be some changes to the design and construction of the reactor.

If the currently planned level of flow and density of neutrons wants to be reached, the conversion of the FRM II to LEU would mean changing many of the basic components. The further along the construction of the reactor is, the more complicated and the more expensive it would be to change the concept.

However, if a lower flow of neutrons could be accepted the costs and investment would be minimal.

The new German government that was elected in October 1998, the red - green coalition, established a commission of six specialists to evaluate if there is still the possibility to convert the test-reactor FRM II from highly enriched uranium to the low enriched uranium. The commission has already started its work and is expected to give its recommendation to the government in June 1999. The Technical University of Munich is already spreading the "news" that the commission's opinion will be that the conversion from HEU to LEU would not be possible at present.

Conclusion

The conversion of FRM II is very important so as to avoid a domino effect in other national and international research reactors. Within Germany alone there are two other research reactors, where the possibility of conversion is proved, but not yet realised. If Garching's FRM II gets the permission use HEU both reactors, Jülich and Berlin, have said they will refer to precedent set in Garching and refuse their conversion. It is clear that the decision reached about Garching is very significant as it can and will effect the future of many reactors world wide. It is not a question of HEU or LEU in Garching, but rather of no reactor with HEU or globally many more reactors with HEU. The Bavarian government has undermined global efforts for the non-proliferation of weapon-grade uranium and overlooked the international fears about the usage of HEU. They have also ignored the unanimous decision of the German parliament to end the use of HEU. Who besides SIEMENS stands to gain from this deal? A global distribution of FRM II type reactors (e.g. by SIEMENS) means an enormous nuclear risk for the global peace.

Contacts:

Bund Naturschutz Kreisgruppe München,
Telefon +49-(0)89-55079987,
email: Bund.Naturschutz@bayern.com

BUND, FoE Germany
Stefan Rostock, Tel: +49-(0)228-40097-68,
email: stefan.rostock@bund.net


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