For the first time anywhere in the world, recent German data reveal huge spikes in radioactive releases during the refuelling of NPPs.
In September 2011, Gundremmingen NPP located between Ulm and Augsburg in Southern Germany emitted much larger amounts of radioactive noble gases during inspection/refuelling than are emitted during normal power operation. According to the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) in Germany, the normal emission concentration during the rest of the year is about 3 kBq/m³, but during inspection/refuelling (in the afternoon and evening of September 22nd) this concentration abruptly increased to ~700 kBq/m³ with a peak of 1,470 kBq/m³. In the following days (September 22nd - 29th), the concentrations of released radioactive noble gases were still much higher (average = 100 kBq/m³) than during normal power operation.
In order to refuel, reactor pressure vessels must be opened which releases to the local environment very large volumes of radioactive gases and vapours, including noble gases, H-3 (tritium), carbon-14, and iodine-131. Until now, the nuclide amounts were only published as annual averages throughout the world. Now, after requests by IPPNW and the Green Party in the Bavarian State Parliament (Landtag), non-averaged values have been made available for scientific evaluation for the very first time anywhere in the world.
Analyses by IPPNW Germany and Nuremberg physicist and statistician Dr Alfred Körblein demonstrate dramatic increases in the emissions during the brief inspection and refuelling period at Gundremmingen. Dr Körblein stated “At its maximum value, the concentration of noble gas emissions during refueling was 500 times greater than during normal reactor operation .”
IPPNW warns of the probable health impacts of such large emission spikes. “Especially at risk are unborn children. When reactors are open and releasing gases, pregnant women can incorporate much higher concentrations of radionuclides than at other times, mainly via respiration” said Reinhold Thiel, member of the German IPPNW Board. “Radioactive isotopes inhaled by the mother can reach the unborn child via the blood and placenta with the result that the embryo/ fetus is contaminated (‘labelled’) by radioactive isotopes. This contamination could affect blood-forming cells in the bone marrow later resulting in leukemia. This provides a plausible explanation for the findings of the KiKK study published in 2007 and 2008 that under-fives living near NPPs are considerably more at risk of cancer, particularly leukemia, than children living further away” Thiel added.
He demanded “ Up to now, supervisory authorities and nuclear operating companies have kept these spikes secret by only providing annually-averaged figures, despite our repeated requests for disaggregated data. We need half-hourly data of the releases of each radioactive nuclide from all German NPPs for scientific evaluation. This is necessary for the protection of unborn children near German nuclear reactors. ”
Graphic: Radioactive emissions of the NPP Gundremmingen during inspection and refuelling period
Contact: Reinhold Thiel, Tel. 0172-24 57 852, Henrik Paulitz, Tel. 0171-53 888 22, German Section of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), Körtestr. 10, 10967 Berlin, Germany, www.ippnw.de, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org