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Sergei Mitrokhin

Nuclear Lobby Against Referendum
Do we need to import spend nuclear fuel?

Sovetskiy Sakhalin (Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk), September 4, 2001

Recently laws allowing for the imports of spent nuclear fuel into Russia have come into force. A large number of propagandist publications explaining its importance for the development of science and industry in Russia emerged at once. The Yabloko faction which voted against these laws consider them doubtful economically and dangerous ecologically. Imagine that something has gone wrong with a rubbish chute in your house, but that you decide to make money on this by proposing that your neighbours bring their waste into your flat. Think about the reaction of your neighbours after such a business proposal. However, such a decision was adopted by the Russian authorities. The only difference is that they want to make money on the storage of nuclear waste, rather than simply waste. In other words, Russia offered other countries to make use of a “clean” part of the nuclear energy, and took up all the trouble about the “dirty” and most dangerous part of the nuclear cycle. For money, of course.

What money are we talking about? The financial feasibility study of the project raises many questions. The magic figure of USD20 bln is simply a myth. It is grounded on the assumption that “nuclear” countries will bring their nuclear waste to us shouting “hurrah!” But they have already made it clear that they question the ability of our nuclear complex to ensure the safety of transportation, storage and recycling of nuclear waste. Recently, in a referendum Finland decided to bury nuclear waste in its territory, afraid of transporting them throughout Russia’s regions bordering Finland. So Russia may attract clients only by considerably lowering the prices of such services. Therefore the mythical USD 20 bln are vanishing at once.

This raises the suspicion that the real earnings from nuclear waste [imports] will be insufficient not only for ecological programmes, but even for building depositories and creating recycling production bases. This means that if the waste arrives, there will be no place or money to store and recycle it.

The condition of roads used to transports the waste is a separate problem. An act of a terrorists on any part of such a route might lead to consequences comparable with Chernobyl. Can we rule out this option, given that the time frame for this project is 40 years?

According to opinion polls, at least 75% of the citizens of Russia disagree with the decision to import nuclear waste. Now our opponents would like to persuade the people that a decision adopted without considering the opinion of the majority of citizens is correct.

We favour continuing the discussion and further decision-making regardingthe results of this discussion. Today the only way out is provided holding a broad discussion on the problem of imports of nuclear waste, which should culminate in a nation-wide referendum. In the short term Yabloko will begin an official collection of signatures in favour of such a referendum.

The nuclear lobby states that decisions on such issues cannot be taken by the people, this may only be decided by the “experts”, and under “experts”: they mean themselves. We think that this position is insulting to our people. In Finland the same problem was taken to referendum. Are the Finnish people smarter than Russians? Certainly, not. Simply Finnish politicians have more respect for the people. Surely this is the main test for the states as to how civilised they are?

A referendum is the last chance to make our bureaucrats and deputies [of parliament] listen to the opinion of the Russian citizens on a problem that has a direct impact on their future.

See also:

Nuclear waste bill section of the web-site

Sovetskiy Sakhalin (Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk), September 4, 2001

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