Centrale nucléaire de Cattenom

The problem-plagued nuclear power plant in Cattenom, France.

Luxembourg and the German states of Rhineland-Palatinate and the Saarland have been urging that Cattenom be taken offline for safety reasons for years.

After a malfunction this week, one of Cattenom’s four reactors was powered down. In May 2014 there was an accident in which ten employees were irradiated. In July 2013 a transformer caught fire.

Der Spiegel reported that Cattenom has had >700 “incidents” in recent years.

Weltweit grösstes Salzkavernenlager

The world’s biggest underground salt-cavern storage site, in Münsterland, where oil recently started flowing into a farmer’s fields.

Germany stores reserves of oil and natural gas in huge hollow spaces rinsed out inside large underground salt deposits.

ZDF heute journal’s report showed a discreet fence sign indicating that the utility Eon has such projects. However, the 50-year-old Münsterland site appears to be under a “public corporation” [Körperschaft des öffentlichen Rechts] tasked with making sure Germany has oil and gas reserves for 90 days, which rented the underground salt cavern from a salt extraction company that’s a joint venture of the chemical companies Solvay, Vestolit and Bayer.

A geologist told ZDF there are a lot of cavern storage sites in the world now and accordingly there are a lot of cases where salt caverns have “collapsed, leaked, exploded, burned…”

Germany has 230 in use now and another 130 are planned. Most are filled with natural gas.

Two Bonn attorneys who specialize in mining law said environmental impact testing was not required for these storage caverns until 2010, and then only for caverns above a certain size.

(VELDT vight   GRISSED ess   zaults caw VERNE en LOG ah.)

Brennelementesteuer

A tax on the radioactive fuel elements used in nuclear reactors. Germany’s federal government created this tax in 2011 (the relevant law is called the, ahem, Kernbrennstoffsteuergesetz). Apparently the fuel rods tax has had a deterrent effect on the operation of nuclear power plants, while bringing in billions in revenue. Some utilities have challenged the tax in court.

Two lawsuits are pending before the Munich Financial Court. A court in Baden-Württemberg found that the fuel rods tax was okay. Relevant cases are also going to be heard by the German Constitutional Court and the European Court of Justice.

The Hamburg Financial Court referred the question of whether the fuel rods tax is “even permissible” to the European Court of Justice in November 2013. That court could take more than a year to issue a decision.

After the Hamburg Financial Court had referred the larger question to the higher instance, it then decided this week, in response to accelerated petitions from the utilities, that the utilities could be temporarily freed from paying the fuel rod tax and that the German treasury should temporarily return 2.2 billion euros of paid tax to the utilities pending the higher courts’ decisions. The court said the government could appeal though, and if the government appeals within one month they would be temporarily freed from having to make the return payment.

(Bren ell em EN tah shtoy ah.)

(CAIRN bren shtoff SHTOY ah gez ETTS.)

Mit Militär gegen die Müll-Mafia

Using the military to police the garbage mafia.

The Italian government announced it will instruct the military to proceed against illegal waste dumping south of Naples, in the region between that city and Caserta.

Spiegel.de said the area has been nicknamed “the deadly triangle” and “fireland” because so much toxic waste is illegally burned there, “estimated at around ten million tons of industrial waste between 1991 and 2013, brought in under cover of darkness by thousands of trucks, though open trash dumps are illegal in the European Union.”

“The garbage business has been a lucrative source of income for the neapolitan mafia since the late 1980’s. The Camorra lets people dump even poisonous garbage, such as asbestos, solvents, car tires and refrigerators, onto the fields and sets it on fire. Companies throughout the entire country would rather pay bribe money to the mafia than hire serious companies to dispose of their refuse.

“This practice not only releases gases that are harmful to health but also poisons the ground and ground water. Many of the crops harvested there contain arsenic and heavy metals. In the region in question, cancer rates are 47% higher than the national average among males and 40% higher among females.”

An English-language Spiegel.de article quoted a mafia whistleblower who said the dumped garbage included truckloads of nuclear waste from Germany. A local U.S. Navy base is said to follow strict rules to avoid the poisons, after the conclusions drawn by a 2011 study they commissioned that was entitled “Drink Naples and die.” The Navy recommends using bottled water for everything and avoiding ground-floor apartments.

(Mitt   meal ee TARE   gay gen   dee   MILL   mafia.)

“Krysha”-Zahlungen

“‘Paving the way’ payments” in Russia. Rapprochement geld, smoothing-the-path-between-us money, also translated as “bribes” according to a Süddeutsche.de article about Germany’s third-largest power company, Energie Baden-Württemberg, saying some German prosecutors have thought for some years now the nuclear power provider used unworkable, improbable “fake contracts” [Scheinverträge] to move money into “shadow accounts” [schwarze Kassen] in Switzerland to form a pool of bribe money doled out to powerful Russian decision-makers, such as politicians or high-ranking military officers, for more access to the Russian nuclear energy and natural gas sectors. At the time, about half of EnBW was government-owned: by an association of county governments from the German state of Baden-Württemberg and by the French “energy giant” EdF, which itself was also “government-dominated.”

EnBW is said to have been aided in these endeavors by Moscow lobbyist Andrej Bykow, transferring ~280 million euros to Mr. Bykow’s Swiss companies over the course of several years.

Süddeutsche.de’s anthropological explanation of krysha said auditors from the accounting firm KPMG found that “questionable contracts with Mr. Bykow and his companies were being used to pay ‘initiation costs'” and that the auditing company’s confidential research had found that depending on the sector such expenses could run to 2% to 5% of the total cost of a project in Russia. That would make Russia one of the least corrupt countries in the world according to the experience of Siemens executives prosecuted for paying international bribes at about the same time: Siemens accountant Reinhard Siekaczek testified for example that, when he managed transfers of approx. $65 million dollars in illegal bribe money through offshore accounts from 2002 to 2006, his unit found that in the most corrupt countries bribes could be ~40% of a project’s budget, while 5% to 6% was about normal. A retired Greek official who was Greece’s defense department’s procurement director from 1992 to 2002 and recently spoke to Athens prosecutors about ~14 million euros found in his secret accounts around the world said from Russian arms deals his kickback was a “very generous” 3%, because 0.5% to 1% was his usual fee.

Germany has some rules against companies’ paying bribes in other countries, even where corruption is supposedly endemic, as can be seen from the billion-euro fines imposed on Siemens for bribery in 2008. Reporting on possible investigations into the corruption is confused by the use of tax investigations to obtain convictions or evidence in non-tax crimes and EnBW is apparently under investigation for a completely different type of tax fraud (the “carousel” sales tax scheme for avoiding value-added tax and/or collecting refunds of advance V.A.T. payments that were never made) now suspected to have become widespread in European electricity trading. Shortly after the utility’s “opaque business deals” with Mr. Bykow became known in 2011, several tax offices told S.Z., they quickly began looking for improprieties.

The passage of years since the start of these investigations, which state, federal and European offices of which types of investigators, and what pieces of this apparently large and sprawling puzzle they were examining, remains unclear to me.

Mannheim prosecutors are said to have been investigating six former EnBW managers and one current EnBW manager since 2012 for tax evasion and “breach of trust” [Untreue] though not for corruption. That could change now that the Karlsruhe tax office has started looking into the questionably documented filling and emptying of the company’s clandestine accounts in Switzerland.

Tax-wise, the power company has already offered to file adjusted German returns for the years 2000 to 2007 and has already transferred an additional 60 million euros to German tax authorities (about what the company saved in taxes by incorrectly labeling some payments to Mr. Bykow as “business expenses,” Mannheim prosecutors said). But new threads to pull keep getting teased out of EnBW’s data.

Süddeutsche.de described a strange nonprofit charity Mr. Bykow founded called “St. Nikolaus the Miracleworker”—whose board members included EnBW managers at times—which made donations to Russian churches, young Russian musicians and Russia’s Air Force, Navy, Border Patrol and “landing troops” [Landungstruppen; amphibious assault?].

“Thus, the Russian Pacific fleet’s submarine squadron Wilutschinsk Kamtschatskij Kraj named a boat after the Nikolaus charity. The charity, in its turn, gave the submarine personnel a minibus and donated a car to their commander, a vice-admiral. For the ‘maintenance of the fighter bomber SU 34, “Holy Nikolaus the Miracleworker,”‘ the foundation donated the construction of a heated airplane hanger. And every year the regiment’s top member received an automobile.”

Though it’s unclear how these arrangements were reached, with Mr. Bykow’s help EnBW ended up receiving military uranium taken e.g. from decommissioned Russian submarines. The utility was said to have used similar methods to increase its access to Siberian gas fields.

(Krysha   TSOLL oong en.)

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