Despite an announcement at the beginning of April that the German government had struck a deal with France to receive transports of vitrified high level waste from La Hague to the storage facility at Gorleben, when this will actually happen remains an open question.
Following a meeting on 30 March of a Franco-German working group on transport issues, it appeared an agreement had been reached for transports to start up in both directions later this year. The transports were stopped following the discovery of contaminated hot-spots on transport casks in May 1998. However, German environment minister and leading member of the Green Party, Jurgen Trittin, said on 8 April that transportation would only begin again when the safety issues had been addressed to his satisfaction and he saw “no need or justification” for shipments to begin again this year.
The issue has been further complicated by a meeting on 20 April between the German federal government and the Länder, or state, governments. Wolfgang Jüttner, environment minister for the Lower Saxony regional government, has said he does not want any more transports to Gorleben, which is in his jurisdiction.
A number of German NPPs have expressed concern that if transportation is not restarted soon, they will run out of storage capacity on site. Stade in Lower Saxony, said last year it would need to transport spent fuel following a refuelling outage, but Jüttner issued the plant a licence to store spent fuel on site. At Biblis in Hesse, the outgoing SPD / Green coalition in the Länder tried to force the closure of Biblis A on safety grounds. However the elections in Hesse resulted in a change of government, with a Christian Democrat / Free Democrat coalition taking power. Both parties opposed the plant’s closure in the election campaign and the new Hesse government is now likely to ask the plant’s owner, RWE, to carry out safety improvements rather than insisting on closure.