[main page][map of the server][news of the server][forums][guestbook][publications][hot issues]

Russian lower house of parliament passes bills to import nuclear waste

Associated Press, June 6, 2001

MOSCOW (AP) - Russia's lower house of parliament on Wednesday quickly approved a controversial proposal that would permit the import of other countries' nuclear waste for reprocessing.

Russia's Atomic Energy Ministry says it could earn up to 20 billion by importing 20,000 metric tons (22,000 short tons) of spent nuclear fuel over 10 years - and use part of the money to clean up Russian regions polluted by radioactive waste from the Soviet-era nuclear program.

"I am voting for this bill because I don't want places in my country remaining dead zones, contaminated by radiation," said Deputy Yegor Ligachev, a Communist and a former member of the Soviet Union's ruling Politburo.

But opponents said the measure would make Russia the world's nuclear dump, and question whether the money will be used as promised. "Our citizens are against turning Russia into an outhouse," said Sergei Mitrokhin of the liberal Yabloko faction.

Yabloko and other opponents of the bill wanted the vote be postponed until fall, but the 450-member State Duma approved the three-bill package after a 20-minute debate on votes of 266-117, 243-125, and 250-125. For passage, 226 votes were needed on each bill.

The measure must pass the Federation Council upper house and be signed by President Vladimir Putin in order to become law.

The upper house usually quickly approves government bills, but its speaker, Yegor Stroyev, warned Wednesday that passage might not be that easy. Stroyev pointed at broad public opposition to the proposals and said it must be thoroughly analyzed.

After passing first reading in December, the measure briefly stalled due to controversy over alleged conflicts of interests on the part of Atomic Energy Minister Yevgeny Adamov. He was dismissed in a Cabinet shakeup, but his successor, Alexander Rumyantsev, also championed the idea and it passed on second reading in April.

Environmentalists and other opponents are skeptical of government promises to clean up radioactive damage to the environment, since many previous pledges have gone unfulfilled.

Russian towns, rivers and swaths of land were exposed to radioactive pollution during the secretive development of the Soviet nuclear industry and environmentalists say they remain dangerously polluted.

Environmentalists also warn that large-scale imports of spent nuclear fuel would threaten radiation safety by leaving no place for Russia's own waste from nuclear power plants and decommissioned submarines.

"The imports of spent nuclear fuel would raise the danger of accidents at our nuclear plants," said Vladimir Kuznetsov, the coordinator of nuclear safety programs for the Russian Green Cross, an independent environmental group.

Kuznetsov, who previously worked at the state nuclear safety watchdog agency, also said that lax security and crumbling railroads would pose additional risks if nuclear waste is imported.

See also:

Nuclear waste bill section of the web-site

Associated Press, June 6, 2001

[main page][map of the server][news of the server][forums][guestbook][publications][hot issues]