Despite U.S. resistance and Russian laws against radioactive
waste imports, Russia's Nuclear Energy Minister shows maniacal
persistence soliciting support for the idea
More evidence of the determination of Atomic Energy boss, Yevgeny
Adamov, to amend Russian environmental law in favour of spent
nuclear fuel imports appeared in a March letter obtained by Russia's
biggest NGO, Socio-Ecological Union.
In the letter addressed to Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov,
Adamov expounds the merits he believes exist in the import and
reprocessing of spent fuel from the world's nuclear reactors.
Adamov encourages Primakov to consider that the world's nuclear
power plants generate 10,000 tons of spent fuel annually, the
Russian reprocessing of which would net huge sums of money.
"Management of this fuel has a potential of $10-15 billion
a year," Adamov wrote, and concluded by suggesting the only
roadblock to a dollar-green paradise is current Russian environmental
SEU's Vladimir Slivyak, who obtained the letter, told Bellona
Web that the letter was just a continuation of Adamov's promotion
of the idea in the government.
Early this year, U.S. Energy Secretary, Bill Richardson, turned
down a proposition from Adamov for the storage and reprocessing
of US spent nuclear fuel in Russia filed in December 1998. Richardson
reportedly cited a violation of U.S. non-proliferation policy
in his rejection of the idea.
Tom Meartens, the American consul, confirmed the stated position
of his government in a response to an SEU query. He wrote: "In
accordance with our non-proliferation policy, the U.S. does not
engage in plutonium processing for either nuclear power or nuclear
explosive purposes and opposes the shipment of U.S. spent fuel
to other countries for reprocessing."
Adamov's proposal included the option of storing reprocessed
waste permanently in Russia or sending it back to the U.S., as
Russian regulations currently require. It came shortly after Minatom
signed a confidential protocol with German and Swiss companies
which outlined a plan for shipments of spent nuclear fuel and
nuclear waste from Europe to reprocessing and storage facilities
Environmental law faces May onslaught Russian Environmental
Law (Sec 3, Art.50) prohibits the import of foreign nuclear waste.
Presidential decree No. 733 dated 29 June 1995 obliges Minatom
to return any radioactive waste generated during the reprocessing
of spent fuel to its country of origin within 30 years.
Minatom hopes to change the way spent fuel is classified under
existing laws - from waste to resource or raw material - creating
a loophole in environmental legislation through which spent fuel
imports could pass.
Recent statements from Adamov suggest a concerted attack on
environmental legislation is about to begin. Russian Duma member
and deputy chair of the Parliamentary Environmental Commission,
Vladimir Tetelmin, told Bellona Web that plans to divide nuclear
waste and spent nuclear fuel do exist for a revised edition of
Russian Environmental Law. He said it would not bring about the
import of foreign spent fuel.
"Waste from reprocessed spent fuel will be returned to
the country of origin according to Russian legislation,"
Tetelmin told Bellona Web. "I doubt Western Europe would
have it (spent fuel) back, therefor there won't be any contracts."
Telinin's assurances might sound foolhardy if Minatom is encouraged
by a legislative victory that establishes a benign legal meaning
for spent fuel. Tempted by such success, Minatom would likely
seek a final victory by abolishing the presidential decree forbidding
the permanent storage of foreign reprocessed nuclear waste.
"Minatom has crafty ways of misleading the Russian government
in an attempt to turn the country into a world nuclear dumpsite.
We appeal to all the state bodies responsible for the security
of the country to stop immediately the crimina lactivity of Nuclear
Minister Yevgeny Adamov,' an SEU press release quoted Slivyak
Minatom's activities have already received support in the Duma.
Minatom lobbyists maintain that the logic behind importing radioactive
waste is to secure funds for solving radiation safety hazards
"We will have a minor increase of nuclear waste in comparison
to what we have today by importing it to Russia, but this minor
amount will help us to tackle the rest of the shit (radioactive
hazards),' a Minatom lobbyist argued.
Most Duma members are apt to subscribe to Minatom's logic amid
the country's continuing economic crisis.