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Nuclear waste returns to Switzerland

Greenpeace activists demonstrating against the arrival of nuclear waste in Würenlingen Keystone

Switzerland is for the first time having to live with its own nuclear waste, after the first transport of reprocessed fuel arrived back in the country.

This content was published on December 12, 2001 - 16:46

The eleven tons of nuclear waste arrived in Würenlingen in canton Aargau on Wednesday by rail from the French reprocessing plant in La Hague.

It is the first of at least three transports expected over the next year from 760 tons of waste that Switzerland has sent to French plant since 1975.

Peter Jenni, a spokesman for the Association for Swiss nuclear power stations, said about 40 Greenpeace activists were waiting at the site in Würenlingen when the transport arrived. He added that it had been a peaceful protest.

Nuclear waste problem

Greenpeace said in a statement that its activists were dressed in black to mark the "death of the illusion that Switzerland did not have a nuclear waste problem".

However, spokesman Andreas Kunz said the organisation did not object to the nuclear waste coming back to Switzerland. "In fact, it's the opposite. It is about time Switzerland took on responsibility for its own nuclear waste," he said.

The reprocessing plant in La Hague reprocesses fuel rods from Germany, Japan, Switzerland, Belgium and the Netherlands. Switzerland is its third biggest customer.

Anton Treier of the department for the safety of nuclear plants confirmed that the contamination level of the waste was "clearly below the legal limits".

The spent fuel rods are encased in glass and will be stored in Würenlingen for about four decades, during which time it is expected to lose enough of its radioactivity to be transported to a "geological warehouse", possibly in the heart of a mountain.

swissinfo with agencies

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