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Professor Attila Aszódi's
Open letter to MEP Rebecca Harms

Rebecca Harms.Member of the European Parliament Rebecca Harms stated five written questions to the European Commission conserning the recovery works planned at the Paks nuclear power plant in Hungary. Harms is a member of Group of the Greens in the European Parliament.

During annual maintenance work at Paks power plant's some fuel rods were damaged. INES (International Nuclear Event Scale) level-3 incident occured 10th April 2003 in a service shaft. The incident raised no health concerns, nobody was injured and the health effects of the environmental release were negligible.

Written questions from Rebecca Harms:

1. Does the Commission have information on the risk involved with the clean-up activities?
2. Could it have any impact outside of Hungary?
3. What type of measures will be taken by the Hungarian authorities – if any – in the case that a serious incident or accident occurs?
4. Does the Commission have information on the scientific grounds on which the decision concerning the further clean-up proceedings has been taken?
5. Does the commission plan to intervene if it turns out that the ‘zero option’ (leaving the 3.6 tonnes of fission material in the tank) would have been a better option in terms of nuclear safety?
- Read the whole letter on MEP Harm's homepage.

Harms's letter to the Commission contained severe errors and false allegations. Professor Attila Aszódi from Budapest University of Technology and Economics sent an open letter to MEP Harms in order to cut wings from the tales stated to the Commission.


Open letter to MEP Rebecca Harms,
Group of the Greens/EFA and energy spokesperson

Dear MEP Ms. Harms,

Your letter to the European Commission - issued on 28 September 2006 - on the planned recovery works at the Paks nuclear power plant has been referred by the Hungarian media. I have read your press release on your website with interest. Concerning the press release and your questions I would like to inform you about the following.

As a university professor working in the nuclear field I consider it highly important that persons speaking to the public on technical issues, and particularly on issues of nuclear safety, should make an effort to be perfectly accurate in order to preserve correctness and credibility. In cases which lend themselves to frighten the technically non-competent public this is a fundamental requirement for politicians too. As I can see, your press release infringes this fundamental requirement in several points.

As a politician interested in energetics and nuclear energy you are supposed to be fully aware of the fact that the words incident and accident are not synonyms. These are accurately defined concepts. The following statement of your press release is not true: "In 2003 the most serious accident in a European nuclear power station since the Chernobyl catastrophe took place in the Hungarian reactor Paks." The rating of the event on the International Nuclear Event Scale was Level-3, namely serious incident (not accident). The incident raised no health concerns, nobody was injured and the health effects of the environmental release were negligible. Furthermore, the incident did not take place in the reactor but in a service shaft.

It is not clear how you have come to the conclusion that there are serious concerns about the operations of the recovery works. ("There are serious question marks surrounding the safety of this unprecedented clean-up process. The highly radioactive spent fuel rods have to be removed without further breaking apart or there is the risk of an even bigger nuclear catastrophe taking place. It is quite possible that it may be safer to leave the radioactive material where it is.") According to the Hungarian laws, not politicians but the Hungarian Atomic Energy Authority, which has appropriate personnel and tools, is competent in questions concerning nuclear safety. The authority have found that the planned operations are safe since they have issued the licenses required based on the plans, discussions and inspections of the past three and a half years. It is also a false allegation that the recovery work is unprecedented. Following the accident of the unit 2 of the TMI nuclear power plant in 1979, American specialists removed a larger amount of much more seriously damaged fuel than in the case of Paks. These American specialists also contributed to the preparations of the recovery work at Paks in the framework of an international co-operation. Incidents leading to the damage of the fuel have occurred in other countries, as well, and the experiences of these incidents were taken into account during the planning of the recovery work. It is also a false idea that the further breakage of the damaged fuel pins is not allowed during the recovery. Contrary to this, such mechanical damage is taken into account in the plans of the recovery work. Based on nuclear safety fundamentals it is also easy to see that it is not worth leaving the damaged fuel in its actual place. The removal will increase the level of nuclear safety since the damaged fuel will be better separated from the environment and other systems of the power plant. The meaning of your phrases "a nuclear catastrophe" and "an even bigger nuclear catastrophe" is also not clear because there was no nuclear catastrophe in Hungary and the planned recovery work can not lead to significant environmental effects.

I am surprised at your statements criticised above because you were informed about the planned recovery operations by the CEO of the Paks Nuclear Power Plant at the European Parliament in Strasbourg in March 2006. I was present at the session and you did not ask the questions published in your recent press release.

Finally, I would like to draw your attention to the following. The incident in 2003 was caused by a cleaning vessel designed and operated by German engineers. The cleaning vessel constructed in your country had serious constructional deficiencies. This implies that the exaggerated anti-nuclear attitude in Germany can weaken the always reputed and highly acknowledged German nuclear expertise. If we want to keep the competitiveness of the European Union and the welfare of the European people, we need safe, cheap and climate-friendly electricity-production methods, like nuclear energy. It should be noticed that your anti-nuclear politics is harmful and erroneous.

In contrast with the statement of the Greens, the energetic challenges of the 21st century cannot be answered without nuclear energy, and its safe application requires highly qualified young experts. Therefore, I call the attention of the German youth interested in natural sciences that they should consider the nuclear profession as a perspective, and should study nuclear technologies.

Budapest, October 9, 2006

Best regards,

Dr. Attila ASZÓDI
director, associate professor
Budapest University of Technology and Economics
Institute of Nuclear Techniques

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Last modified May 5th 2008