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ENERGY

Ruhr nuclear plant ‘pumped radioactive waste into air’

A former engineer at one of Germany’s nuclear reactors has made an astonishing claim: that the plant intentionally pumped radioactive waste into the atmosphere in 1986.

Ruhr nuclear plant ‘pumped radioactive waste into air’
A demonstration outside the THTR reactor in 1986. Photo: DPA

Speaking to the Westfälischer Anzeiger, 83-year-old retired engineer Hermann Schollmeyer apparently decided it was time to come clean, three decades after the incident he describes.

The official story had always been that radioactive waste was unintentionally leaked into the air at the THTR reactor in Hamm in May 1986, the western German newspaper reports.

But Schollmeyer now claims that the plant used the cover of the Chernobyl – which had released a cloud of radioactive waste over western Europe – to pump their own waste into the atmosphere, believing no one would notice.

“It was done intentionally,” Schollmeyer said. “We had problems at the plant and I was present at a few of the meetings.”

The problems related to balls of radioactive fuel getting stuck in the plant's pipework.

“Some clever dick suggested we clean out the pipework by pumping helium through it. He thought that no one would notice because of the Chernobyl cloud.”

Although he admitted that he was not at the meeting at which the decision was made, Schollmeyer insisted there was no other explanation.

The engineer said though that he stood by the reactor’s safety record.

“There was never a failure at the plant,” he said. “I still have a really positive opinion about the reactor. We should have just been patient. We’d already ordered a filter system. But they didn’t want to keep the reactor shut down for another two or three weeks.”

When asked why it took him so long to come forward about the incident, the engineer said “no one asked me before.”

Hubertus Zdebel, a member of parliament for the Left Party, told Neues Deutschland that “if Dr. Schollmeyer’s account is accurate we are talking about a scandalous and criminal action.”

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ENERGY

German households to receive relief for gas costs ‘starting in January’

To help German residents with skyrocketing energy costs, the government is planning to provide relief starting in January, according to draft legislation.

German households to receive relief for gas costs 'starting in January'

Through the gas price cap, the so-called Gaspreisbremse, both German residents and companies will receive retrospective relief for their gas costs starting in January 2023, according to the draft. 

Previously the relief payments were set to stretch between March 2023 and spring 2024, with 25,000 larger businesses, as well as almost 2,000 hospitals and schools to receive the help starting in January. 

READ ALSO: How much could households save under Germany’s new price cap?

The German government is reacting to the sharp rise in energy prices with energy price brakes worth billions and wants to soften the blow on both private households and companies. 

Germany will also be divvying out a one-off energy relief payment in December.

READ ALSO: When will people in Germany get their December gas bill payment?

How much will households and businesses receive?

Under the gas price cap, households and small and medium-sized enterprises are to receive a guaranteed gas gross price of 12 cents per kilowatt hour for 80 percent of their current consumption. For the remaining 20 percent of consumption, the contract price is set to apply.

For district heating, the guaranteed gross price is to be capped at 9.5 cents. 

Starting in January, a gas price brake is also planned for industry. These large consumers are to receive a guaranteed price of 7 cents per kilowatt hour net for 70 percent of their previous consumption volume.

The largest part of the energy price brake is to be financed by a “defence umbrella”, or special reserve, totalling up to €200 billion. The government is still taking on new debt in order to finance the energy caps. 

Russia’s war against Ukraine has increasingly aggravated the situation on the energy markets in Germany and Europe in the course of 2022, the draft states. 

In particular, the recent large price increases for natural gas and heat represent a “considerable, in some cases existence-threatening burden for residents and companies in Germany,” it continued. “They are an enormous socio-political and economic challenge.”

Vocabulary

relief – (die) Entlastung

Natural gas – (das) Erdgas

Consumption – (der) Verbrauch

cushion/soften a blow – abfedern

We’re aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Let us know.

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