AN EXPERIMENTAL nuclear reactor in Sacavém (near Lisbon) has been operating for 45 years without a licence. The discovery has led to the opening of an official enquiry by the European Union, which believed that Portugal had no nuclear reactors.
The EU launched an official complaint and enquiry in 2004, saying that there was a lack of security and controls at the prototype establishment.
Various governments, throughout the years, have always known about the experimental facility, but the public and the Atomic Energy Commission had been kept completely in the dark.
The reactor is producing small amounts of radioactive material and is principally used in a research programme into Portugal’s possible option to choose nuclear-fired power stations. However, with no natural resources of her own and 70 per cent dependent on oil and gas products to generate energy, Portugal has suffered in recent years from soaring energy costs.
Now, environmental lobby groups are also up in arms saying that the nuclear reactor, without the proper controls, could pose a threat to public health.
Various complaints have been sent to the Ministry of the Environment, claiming that the reactor, close to National Highway 10, has been producing radioactive waste, which is being stored at the Technological and Nuclear Institute.
Now, the EU and environmental group Quercus is calling for the reactor to be shut down because of its failure to have a licence.