The Halden nuclear reactor in Norway, a danger to all of Europe? by Pierre Fetet


“….This “nuclear safety authority” (NRPA) reported only 0.002% of the radioactive release!….”

“….On the French side, I also contacted the IRSN on the same day, but this one has remained silent until now. As for ASN, he referred me to the press releases of NRPA and IFE. We’re going round in circles … No wonder that rumors of meltdown in Halden bloom in several websites! The IFE and the NRPA, while remaining opaque on this “incident”, themselves cause legitimate questions that quickly turn into rumors. At present, these two organizations are obliged to make communiqués to counter the rumors they have helped to form!….”

“….The NRPA told Criirad that it had asked IFE to correct the design defect in the Halden reactor, otherwise the restart permit would not be given…..” Pierre Fetet


This article, like all the other articles I have written in this blog for 6 years, represents the result of my research and the opinion of a simple European citizen who is worried about the air he breathes. It is absolutely not the expression of the CRIIRAD, as a Norwegian site reported yesterday. I made a mistake of appreciation regarding the designation “accident” of the INES scale in the first version of this article. I corrected this error quickly and ask my readers to apologize. However, the event that took place in Halden is, in my opinion, an accident that has had negative effects on the environment, but it should not be called a “nuclear accident” because significant radioactive releases are authorized by Our nuclear societies and low doses are not recognized as hazardous by nuclear safety organizations, although they are proven to be responsible for genetic mutations and diseases. I do not want to panic, it’s not my goal. I simply want to inform and alert on the dangers of nuclear power and the atmospheric pollution that we all undergo without our knowledge. I persist and sign, whatever may be said, the Halden reactor is dangerous, like all other nuclear reactors in the world. This is my opinion, based on sources that everyone can consult. PF (updated 28/03/17)

Radioactive pollution of iodine-131 in Europe at the beginning of 2017 made it possible to highlight the activity of a reactor unknown to the general public, the Halden research reactor in Norway. Although he could not be held responsible for the radioactive cloud that spread from Spain to Norway in January-February, it was learned from the Norwegian NGO Bellona that this reactor had experienced an “incident” in October latest. A Norwegian Nuclear Safety Agency report dated 13 February 2017 reveals the danger to users of this reactor. We move away from Fukushima but not so much because the problem is the same: failure of reactor cooling, risk of explosion of hydrogen, rejection of iodine 131 and other carcinogenic radionuclides, MOX, … do you not recall this?

Author – Pierre Fetet. Original article in French (link takes you to extensive technical picture library of the reactor and site not fully reproduced in this article (images shown here are courtesy of IFE).


1. One of the oldest reactors in the world still in operation

2. Partners of the Halden Reactor Project

3. The “Incident” of 24 October 2016

4. Experimentation of new fuels

5. What was the nature of the radioactive clouds?

6. Halden Reactor Shutdown

7. IFE needs public money to process waste

8. Why do we have nothing more about this event?”

9. Requiring clarification

1. One of the oldest reactors in the world still in operation

The Halden reactor was inaugurated and activated in 1959. Yes, you read: 1959! It is located in Halden, a coastal town in southeastern Norway, near the border with Sweden, 1200 km from France. With a power of 25 MW maximum, this almost 60 years was created for the research.

This boiling water reactor (BWR) is not visible from the outside. It is located 100 meters inside a hill under a rocky cover of 30 to 50 meters. The reactor hall is 10 meters wide, 30 meters long and 26 meters high. The reactor room also contains fuel pits for the temporary storage of the fuel used. The underground complex has a volume of 4500 m3. The cooling circuits are located inside the reactor room and in the reactor inlet tunnel. The control room and service facilities are located outside the excavation. The service buildings contain offices, workshops and laboratories.

The energy produced is delivered in the form of steam through heat exchangers and conduits to Norske Skog Saugbrugsforeningen which uses it for paper production.

The primary function of the Halden reactor is to test fuels and components of nuclear reactors. A fuel charge consists of a combination of test fuels from partner country organizations and fuel assemblies that provide a basis for reactivity for reactor operation. The core consists of about 110 to 120 fuel assemblies, including test fuel, in an open hexagonal network.

In Halden, internationally accepted codes, rules and recommendations are used only in an advisory capacity, meaning that experimenters are aware of international safety standards but may disregard them as they see fit. Yet according to the CEA, the material tests and the analyzes carried out indicate that the reactor can operate safely well beyond the year 2020.

In Halden, internationally accepted codes, rules and recommendations are used only in an advisory capacity, meaning that experimenters are aware of international safety standards but may disregard them as they see fit. Yet according to the CEA, the material tests and the analyzes carried out indicate that the reactor can operate safely well beyond the year 2020.

2. Partners of the Halden Reactor Project

It is managed by the Norwegian Institute of Energy Technology (IFE) and is the most important of the joint projects of the NEA (Nuclear Energy Agency, OECD body): more than 130 scientific, institutional and industrial organizations Of 21 countries are or have been involved in the Halden reactor project.


The partner countries of this atomic project are Germany (Society for the Safety of Power Plants and Reactors – GRS), Belgium (Nuclear Research Center – SCK CEN), Czech Republic (ÚJV Řež), Korea (Korean Institute Atomic Energy Research Center (KAERI), Denmark (Technical University of Denmark – DTU), United Arab Emirates (Nuclear Regulatory Authority – FANR), Spain (Center for Energy Research), United States (US Nuclear Regulatory Commission – USNRC), Russian Federation (ROSATOM Fuel Company – JSC TVEL), Finland (Ministry of Employment and Economics – TVÖ), France France – EDF), Hungary (Center for Energy Research, Hungarian Academy of Sciences – MTA), Italy (National Agency for New Technologies, Energy and Sustainable Economic Development – ENEA), Japan Japan Regulatory Authority (NRG), Kazakhstan (Ulba Metallurgical Plant – UMP JSC), Norway (Energy Technology Institute – IFE), the Netherlands (NRG Company), the Slovak Republic (VÚJE Trnava) And the CIEMAT technology), the United Kingdom (National Nuclear Laboratory – NNL), Sweden (Swedish Radiation Safety Authority – SSM) and Switzerland (Federal Inspectorate of Nuclear Safety – ENSI). It is therefore a hub of the world nuclear village.

3. The “incident” of 24 October 2016

The terse text of the IFE press release reads as follows: “On Monday, 24 October, at 1.45 pm, an unintentional release of radioactive iodine occurred in connection with the handling of test fuel in the Halden reactor. Rejection poses no threat to IFE employees or the environment. ”

It is so succinct that the NPRA, the Norwegian nuclear safety agency equivalent to the ASN in France, insisted on carrying out an inspection to control the installation and to know the details of this event.

Thanks to the website which has edited the English translation of the Norwegian NPRA report, we know the contents of this document which we have translated into French. You can read the entire report in the appendix at the bottom of this page or by downloading it in pdf format via the links below;


WHOLE REPORT HALDEN in English (with opinon introduction) Courtesy of the NRPA via;

To summarize, while the reactor was stationary – officially for maintenance since October 8, 2016 – a handling error on Monday, October 24, 2016 at 1.45 pm, of a damaged fuel led to the sudden creation of a cloud Which has invaded the reactor hall and its surroundings. Due to the danger, the site staff were immediately evacuated.

The Norwegian Nuclear Safety Authority (NRPA) was notified by the IFE (Energy Technology Institute, responsible for the operation of the reactor) only the following morning; Then, after shutting down the reactor room ventilation system (which stopped the release to the environment), IFE informed the NRPA on Tuesday night (25 October) that the situation was under control. Given the strange management of the incident by the operator, NRPA conducted a surprise inspection at the IFE headquarters in Kjeller. And there, big surprise: the event was still in progress! As a result, the NRPA immediately initiated a strengthened IFE inspection which enabled it to oversee, partly on site, the management of the “incident” until 2 December.

On November 1, after the NRPA called for greater transparency, the IFE reported that the reactor was “in a very special state”. What is a reactor “in a very special state” when it was stationary for more than three weeks? Well, this translates into “temperature fluctuations in the reactor vessel, an indication of increased neutron flux in the core of the reactor and the danger of hydrogen formation”. Nothing less than that. Normally, when a reactor is stopped, the chain reaction is stopped in its entirety. In this particular case, it did not seem to be the case because an increase in the neutron flux indicates a resumption of activity, signed moreover by a production of iodine which is a product of fission. Moreover, the increase of the heat in the core of the reactor, without a cooling circuit, can lead to the degradation of the zirconium sheaths surrounding the fuel. Now, from a certain temperature, the zirconium oxidizes on contact with water and produces hydrogen, highly explosive gas. This phenomenon produced at least three violent explosions in Fukushima in 2011.

To overcome this crisis, the NRPA authorized the reopening of the reactor hall ventilation on 1 November. There were therefore two air releases: the first on 24-25 October 2016 when the event occurred until the ventilation was closed and the second on 1 November.

Following this event, NRPA revoked the license to operate the reactor. However, the IFE is counting on the NRPA to obtain the necessary authorizations in order to continue the experiments. Halden Research Director Atle Valseth says the reactor will be restarted by June 2017.

4. Experimentation of new fuels

Since 2013, the Halden reactor has been used to test a new thorium fuel. It is a small Norwegian-based nuclear energy company, Thor Energy, that has begun testing the potential of thorium to replace uranium in nuclear reactors. At the time of the “incident”, IFE completed a three-year research program that began in January 2015. What was the nature of the research? According to the World Nuclear Association, the current experiment consisted of irradiation of a thorium-MOX fuel. The test fuel is in the form of pellets composed of a dense thorium oxide ceramic matrix containing about 10% plutonium oxide as a fissile conductor. The instability of the reactor at the time of the “incident” may come from this new fuel. The sorcerer’s apprentices of the atom have no limit! It was also during an “experiment” that the Chernobyl disaster, still under way 31 years later, began.

Norway is tempted by thorium because it has large reserves of this material on its territory. Thorium production would have only an economic objective because it does not need nuclear power: Norway produces the bulk of its electricity through renewable energy.

The US company Lightbridge and the IFE have formalized a collaboration in 2015 on the study of a new metallic nuclear fuel developed by Lightbridge. The Halden reactor was designed to allow testing of samples under actual conditions, that is, under the operating conditions of a commercial reactor. Were these trials, which were scheduled for 2017, started earlier than planned? According to Lightbridge CEO Seth Grae, they had to generate data needed for the accreditation of the new fuel by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and its deployment by the nuclear utilities in the reactors Around the world. “We have absolute confidence in IFE’s expertise and the Halden facilities, which are recognized in the nuclear energy industry for their excellence. Said this very enlightened man.


Halden thorium-plutonium fuel assembly (Zdnet source)

5. What was the nature of the radioactive clouds?

According to the NPRA, the discharge was 150 million becquerels for iodine 131 and 24 million becquerels for iodine 132, without mentioning any other radioactive substances that may have been released. The IFE, contacted on March 19 by me, did not wish to communicate the integral nature of the radioactive clouds of October-November 2016 nor the proportions of the different radionuclides composing them. It would do so at the request of the NRPA, if the nuclear authority asked for it. The IFE says it will have to submit a detailed report to the NRPA on the 2016 releases before May 1, 2017. But it does not say whether this report will be public. Moreover, the NRPA, also contacted on 19 March, did not provide any answer to the same question.

On the French side, I also contacted the IRSN on the same day, but this one has remained silent until now. As for ASN, he referred me to the press releases of NRPA and IFE. We’re going round in circles … No wonder that rumors of meltdown in Halden bloom in several websites! The IFE and the NRPA, while remaining opaque on this “incident”, themselves cause legitimate questions that quickly turn into rumors. At present, these two organizations are obliged to make communiqués to counter the rumors they have helped to form!

It is an association that finally got the missing information. The also contacted the NRPA on 16 March. Thanks to it, we have a little more information, and not the least!

The releases of October 2016 did not include only becquerels of iodine131 and 132. They also contained 8 178 billion becquerels of radioactive rare gas and 550 billion becquerels of tritium! We are very far from the 184 million becquerels of radioactive iodine of the reassuring release of the NRPA! This “nuclear safety authority” reported only 0.002% of the radioactive release! How to trust the NRPA after such a lie?

According to the Criirad, in view of the absence of measuring stations close enough to the Halden reactor and devices to preserve the memory of the contamination, “a fine characterization of the impact of the releases on October 24 2016 and the following days “.

6. Halden Reactor Shutdown

It is highly desirable that all European countries should demand that this reactor be stopped permanently because of its great age, especially since the NRPA does not subject it to international nuclear safety standards.

This “incident” showed the great functional inconsistency regarding the containment of the site: the reactor cooling system is linked to the ventilation system of the reactor hall! This means that in the event of a serious accident, there is no alternative but to release into the atmosphere any gaseous or aerosolized radioactive pollution. It is a reactor with a false confinement. Until then, Halden residents were reassured that the facility is under 40 meters of rock and that they therefore risk absolutely nothing. This is totally false. For the underground burial of radioactive waste in the Meuse, the same lie is used: if there is a fire, even 500 meters below ground, the pollution will come out through the aeration chimneys. The confinement is absolutely not assured.

The fact that the Halden reactor is under 40 meters of rock is no guarantee. On the contrary, in the event of a hydrogen explosion, the site can quickly become inaccessible due to landslides and produce atmospheric radioactive pollution through the vent chimneys or any other orifice created by the explosion. Underground accidents are always possible and, once produced, are extremely costly and difficult to manage, especially in the presence of plutonium. See the recent example of WIPP in New Mexico!

The NRPA told Criirad that it had asked IFE to correct the design defect in the Halden reactor, otherwise the restart permit would not be given. This must be followed closely. Indeed, the IFE intends to restart before June the reactor to satisfy its international customers. Doing work would make it run in deficit for the year 2017. Does the NRPA have enough authority to require this important safety work?

7. IFE needs public money to process waste

The Halden reactor was shut down on 8 October 2016, officially due to maintenance, but above all to save money. Indeed, the IFE is affected by the economic slowdown, with a loss of turnover of approximately 5 million euros. To reduce the costs of 2016, this institute has put a portion of its employees in technical unemployment (98 employees set at 50% and 27 redundancies pure). In fact, the research reactor is very expensive when it is stopped and the management of its waste is also a major problem. Amounting 17 tons of various spent fuel from its own tests since the 1960s in the Halden and Kjeller reactors, Norway no longer knows what to do with its waste. According to the Norwegian site TU, “fuel is unstable and potentially self-igniting in contact with air. It is therefore not suitable for long-term storage “.

In 2016, the IFE had asked the Norwegian government for 8 million euros to start repackaging its long-lived waste, but got only three. The Institute relies on AREVA and the Hague to reprocess this hazardous waste. He hopes to convince the Norwegian parliament of the need to deal with this cumbersome and dangerous waste, in particular by focusing on the 18 containers of spent fuel that are currently stuck in a storage well of the former Jeep 1 reactor at Kjeller, Abandoned since the shutdown of the reactor 50 years ago …

8.Why do we have nothing more about this event?”

Because 130 scientific, institutional and industrial organizations from 20 countries are involved in the OECD’s Halden reactor project. They want to be able to experiment quietly, protected from overly restrictive international nuclear safety regulations. The atmospheric tests are done as in the old days. We pollute without counting, and especially without saying anything, “so as not to complicate communication with the general public by too much data” (NRPA).

The world nuclear village being wetted up to the neck by the polluting activities of this outdated reactor, it is understandable that no official body would want to disclose a case of this kind. In the nuclear industry, when you lift the carpet, you discover horrors … Oddly, there is a lack of public data on the days when there was the strongest rejection.

The fact that radiological barriers have been damaged and that the public has been exposed to significant doses is a cause for concern: 35% of the annual discharge limit of Krypton 85 (10.7 years) and 44% Of the annual discharge limit of Xenon 131m (period of 12 days) in ten days, it’s a lot of a sudden. Of course, all official agencies, accustomed to lying to the population, will continue to talk only of iodine-131, although the NRPA was caught in the act of lying.

9. Requiring clarification

All of these falsely transparent bodies, IFE, NRPA, must clearly explain what happened in October-November 2016 in Halden. They must answer these questions:

– What event damaged the fuel tested?

– Why did IFE not alert NRPA immediately?

– What event produced an increase in neutron flux?

– Was the fuel tested thorium-plutonium?

– Was it an experiment of MOX thorium in real conditions?

– What was the exact nature of the radioactive releases from 24-25 November and 1 November 2016? The NRPA information provided to the Criirad is insufficient, as there is no mention of measures on possible releases of carbon 14, cesium 137, cobalt 60, plutonium, etc.

– What was the proportion of radionuclides for each of these clouds?

– Why the Halden reactor does not obey the international safety rules of post-Fukushima nuclear installations?

It is rather unbearable to learn by chance that the European atmosphere is polluted by radioactive gases or aerosols from an outdated reactor and all this with the blessing of the security agencies that are supposed to protect us. A parliamentary inquiry should be required from MEPs to shed light on this case and on all installations likely to release dangerous products into the atmosphere, especially since iodine 131 has still been detected In March in Svanhovd, northern Norway.

10. Annexes

– Communiqué of the Criirad of 24/03/17 (1st update) –

– Bellona article of March 3, 2017 –

– Rreport of NRPA of 13/02/17:

French translation from the English version by Pierre Fetet and Odile GirardSource ;

English version: At-ife-halden-the-handling-of-the-incident-nrpa-report-in-english /

Report in French with added technical  images ( NRPA report in French on the bottom of the page)


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