Umicore’s response to the article and documentary published by the RTBF about radioactive waste in Belgium

Umicore’s response to the article and documentary published by the RTBF about radioactive waste in Belgium

Following the report broadcast by RTBF on 9 December about radioactive waste management in Belgium, Umicore wishes to correct the data that was presented in an erroneous or misleading manner during the broadcast.

First, it is essential to clarify that the levels of radioactivity as measured by Greenpeace near the Umicore plant in Olen are very low and, contrary to the insinuations made during the broadcast, do not in any way constitute a threat to human health or the environment. In fact, Greenpeace recorded levels of radioactivity of 1 to 10 microsieverts per hour, which is between one hundredth and one thousandth of the exposure reference not to be exceeded on an annual basis. In other words, one would have to stand still between 100 and 1,000 hours on this walking trail to reach the reference value. By way of comparison, a medical CT-scan exposes us to 5,000 microsieverts, or 500 to 5,000 times more than the measurements taken in Olen. In the report, there is confusion between measurements expressed in millionths of a Sievert (microsievert) and reference values expressed in thousandths of a Sievert (millisievert) which is likely to mislead the public.

Furthermore, the comparison made during the report between the cost of treating radioactive waste from nuclear power plants and the residues stored at the Umicore site in Olen is irrelevant. Waste from nuclear power plants is category C waste (according to the classification of the International Atomic Energy Agency) which is highly radioactive and generates significant heat. This waste has to be buried at a depth of several hundred meters, which explains the particularly high cost of its treatment. The residues present on the Umicore site (essentially category A residues and a small quantity of category B resulting from production stopped since 1970) are of very low radioactivity and are stored according to the guidelines set out by the relevant federal agencies. Strict inspections are carried out regularly by these agencies. The provisions set aside by Umicore to meet its obligations are sufficient and any insinuations to the contrary are unfounded.

Finally, Umicore answered all the questions asked by the RTBF contrary to what was claimed during the broadcast. The company is managing the environmental legacy of decades of industrial activity in a transparent, proactive and responsible manner and deplores that erroneous or misrepresented data have been disseminated in this way.  

For more information

Eva Behaeghe

Senior Investor Relations Manager
T: +32 2 227 70 68

Evelien Goovaerts

VP Group Communications & IR
T: +32 2 227 78 38