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Anti-nuclear activists needle German power giant's annual general meeting

SOFA Münster, translated by Diet Simon | 04.05.2007 14:36 | Ecology | Social Struggles | World

Anti-nuclear activists have been demonstrating outside and inside the annual meeting of stockholders of one of Germany’s electricity giants, the transnational EON. A coalition of environmental groups protested in Essen against EON’s plans to expand nuclear power production. Some of the countries where EON is planning new nukes are Finland, Great Britain, Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria.

In Russia the infamous trinational Urenco uranium enrichment company, partly owned by EON, has dumped some 80,000 tonnes of depleted Urenco uranium as waste.
The protesters also raised the planned German final repository in Gorleben, a village of 800 people in the north.

While outside the stockholders meeting attention was generated with banners and flyers, inside the meeting activists dominated a whole block of speeches in the afternoon, much to the annoyance of EON heavyweights.
As always at such events, thousands of small shareholders attend to hear about the newest dividend increase while enjoying coffee and frankfurts.
Such a visit offers a small insight into the way of thinking in many a German lounge room, and many an executive’s office.
Right at the outset EON CEO Wulf Bernotat made absolutely clear that EON is banking on the expansion of nuclear power in Europe. The standard of the ensuing “official” debate was exemplified by the suggestion of a nuclear fan to hire an attractive woman for a pro-nuclear campaign. He mentioned the actress Veronika Ferres.
Things got more exciting when EON management was massively attacked from several sides over its nuclear activities and there was a surprisingly big volume of applause in the hall.
The environmental organisation Urgewald attacked the planned extension of the running time of the accident-prone nuke at Brunsbüttel near Hamburg and the nuke plans for Romania and Bulgaria.
Management responded that the tendering procedure in Romania has been indefinitely delayed and that there were “ownership and financing problems” in Belene in Bulgaria.
The background to that is that in a campaign Urgewald and a group called Ausgestrahlt have dissuaded German banks from financing, thereby causing a substantial part of the “problems”.
Asked to speak to the nuke plans in Finland by a Finnish activist from Women against Nuclear Power, management replied that plans there were still very vague and there wasn’t much that could be said about them now.
In similarly evasive manner EON tried to play down the nuke plans in Slovakia, which were presented by Greenpeace Slovakia.
Things got very unpleasant for the EON bosses when they were challenged on the corporation’s part-ownership of the nuke in Forsmark, near Stockholm, the capital of Sweden, which came close to a meltdown last August.
Of course nothing like that could happen in Germany, was their mantra, while in Sweden optimisation measures had been enforced in other reactors.
Next agenda item was Gorleben. A representative of the resistance group there sharply criticised management for holding on to Gorleben as final dump come what may.
Earlier a shareholder had demanded that Gorleben should start operating as a dump at long last because there was no better option.
EON responded very evasively to two speeches by Ecodefense Moscow and the Münsterland Anti-Nuclear Action Coalition about uranium enrichment.
Management tried to play down its 16% holding in Urenco, claiming not to know the uranium contracts between Urenco and the Russian state-owned firm Tenex.
"We assume that the transport and processing of the uranium happen in accordance with approved Russian safety standards,” management said.
An interesting revelation was that Urenco actually pays the Russians to take the uranium waste and that EON would/could not say whether any enriched uranium comes back to the plant in Gronau, near the Dutch border.
"Some of it may come back enriched” but doesn’t have to! What is certain is that “the depleted uranium stays in Russia”. There was no guarantee by Urenco to take it back.
The activists rated their action at EON a success because management and several thousand stockholders were confronted with the consequences of the ideologically blind nuclear course.
It was also hilarious to see how EON tried to wriggle its way out of its entanglements. On the management board of EON-Energie is Walter Hohlefelder, who is also deputy chairman of the Urenco board. From 1986-1994 he had responsibility in the federal environment ministry for reactor safety and nuclear waste disposal.
Management was asked whether Hohlefelder already worked on the waste uranium deal between Urenco and Russia while he was in government. EON’s reply: “We’ve tried to find that out but we have no information on what goes on in the federal government.”
Also thickly entangled is EON board member, Burckhard Bergmann; he’s also one of the directors of Russia’s Gazprom where he sits around the table with several Russian ministers and other officials. At home in Düsseldorf he’s also an honorary consul for Russia with an office in the EON headquarters in Düsseldorf.
The man (on about €3 million annual salary) slept throughout the meeting and only jolted awake when his personal involvement with the uranium business was mentioned. Answer by EON CEO Bernotat: "The Russian government exerts no influence on EON and I assume not on Urenco, either.” He assumes – does he indeed!
The public relations exercise by EON was clearly enriched with our arguments.
But now more has to happen on the streets so that we tangibly up the pressure on the nuclear Mafia to stop the nuclear course of Urenco and EON.
There are three opportunities to do that in the next few days.
Towards the end, EON refused to divulge when the next waste uranium train will run from Gronau to Russia. But well informed sources are tipping Wednesday 9 May. All the rail cars have meanwhile arrived at the plant for loading.
Specifics will be announced at the 250th Sunday walk at the Gronau enrichment plant on Sunday 6 May from 1.30 p.m. or on relevant websites.
On 12 May there will be actions against uranium transports at the German-French and Netherlands-German borders. More about those at

SOFA Münster, translated by Diet Simon


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  1. Depleted Uranium an American-made problem — Harris