German mine used for nuclear waste leaking

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

BERLIN, Sept. 3 (UPI) -- Radioactive water is leaking from an old salt and potash mine in Germany that had been converted to a storage facility for nuclear waste.

The discovery of the leak has reopened debate about nuclear power, theerman magazine Der Spiegel reports. German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel described the mine as "the most problematic nuclear facility in Europe."

The Asse II mine in Lower Saxony shut down in 1964. Three years later it reopened as an "experimental" nuclear facility.

Official records indicate that 130,000 barrels of low- and mid-level nuclear waste are stored in the mine, Spiegel said. But there are reports that nuclear fuel rods and plutonium were dumped there as well and that some of the barrels have rusted through.

Radiation levels have been measured there at eight times the safe level, Der Spiegel said. Local officials said they fear that salt water leaking from the mine could end up in public water supplies.

After an interim report was released, Renate Kunst, leader of the Green Party in the German parliament, filed a criminal complaint against the Helmholtz Center for Health and Environment and the state mining office in Lower Saxony, the two agencies responsible for the mine, Der Spiegel said.

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