In yesterday's vote, the Duma approved the Nuclear Energy Ministry's
plans to import spent nuclear fuel for reprocessing and temporary
storage in return for some money, although no one can say exactly
how much. Advocates of the project say that reprocessing the heat
rods from nuclear reactors could earn Russia about $20 billion.
The money will be made available to Russia over 20 years, but
not all of this amount will be spent on environmental programmes.
Some money will have to be spent on building the required infrastructure.
Again, no one can say exactly how much money will be spent on
building reprocessing and storage facilities.
In other words, Duma deputies essentially voted to allow the
Nuclear Energy Ministry to start negotiations with interested
states. Various opinion polls and surveys indicate that most Russian
citizens don't want foreign spent nuclear fuel in Russia, considering
it to be nuclear waste - an assumption which the atomic lobby
vehemently rejects as absolutely false. The Nuclear Energy Ministry
is assuring the
public that spent nuclear fuel is a valuable raw material and
that its import will bring additional revenues to the treasury
(to say nothing of the money Russia will earn from its reprocessing).
However, no one knows whether this is the case. It will become
clear ten, fifteen, twenty, or more years from now. It will take
just as long for us to find out what the transformation of the
Russian Federation into a place here the civilized world dumps
its waste will do to Russian citizens.
All these and other usual phrases were said yesterday in the
Duma. Opponents of the project (Yabloko, the Union of Right-Wing
Forces, some Communists, and part of the Russian Regions group)
once again criticised the idea of transforming Russia into a nuclear
waste dump. Advocates cited the tough requirements of state experts
who examined the bills presented to the lower house of parliament
for third reading and found them acceptable. Yabloko members organised
a protest picket in front of the Duma before the plenary meeting,
while Grigory Yavlinsky did his best to persuade deputies with
figures. He said that 100 million Russian citizens opposed these
"nuclear" bills, and that the initiatives really enjoyed
the support of only a few hundred Duma deputies and state officials
who stand to intercept the money they assert that the nation will
It should be noted that the atomic lobby did have something to
parry Yavlinsky's arguments. Yavlinsky and his supporters were
accused of promoting the interests of Russia's rivals in this
sector of the international market, asserting that they were covertly
sponsoring the scare campaign.
The bills have now been forwarded to the upper house of parliament,
where Speaker Yegor Stroyev already says that they will not pass
the Federation Council that easily. Stroyev says that the Federation
Council will demand some sort of tests which will show citizens
what they should expect if the laws are adopted. However, it should
be noted that the nuclear bills are not included in the bills
that must be debated in the Federation Council. The upper house
of parliament has only three weeks to start its debate, or the
bills will be forwarded directly to the president for
signing. The final decision will be Vladimir Putin's.
waste bill section of the web-site