Radioactive metal melting plant planned launch halted

Foto: Bellona

Publish date: January 27, 2002

Written by: Rashid Alimov

Public protests made Leningrad County Governor, Valery Serdyukov, claim that private radioactive metal melting plant Ecomet-S, illegally built at the territory of Leningrad nuclear power plant (LNPP), can not be launched without required environmental evaluation.

Public protests made Leningrad County Governor, Valery Serdyukov, claim that private radioactive metal melting plant Ecomet-S, illegally built at the territory of Leningrad nuclear power plant (LNPP), can not be launched without required environmental evaluation.

“Nobody has the right to sign documents commissioning any industrial site before an expert evaluation has been made, and when we are talking about operations with radioactive substances, it is also necessary to listen to the local people attentively,” the governor said. He stressed that the Law On Environmental Protection, which nobody is authorized to repeal or violate, regulates those requirements.

The governor said, no State acceptance inspection could be created, until all the demands mentioned would be met.

Meanwhile, only several days ago Ecomet-S kept on cherishing hopes, the State Acceptance Inspection would permit to put into operation the plant, which has been actually in operation for a while. This commission was set up in December 2001 by an order of Valery Lebedev, deputy minister for nuclear energy. Ecomet-S representatives kept on answering to the questions of Bellona Web, that the decision had not been signed yet, but the inspection was still working at the complex. But even this Minatom-created inspection desisted from launching the plant.

Mayor of Sosnovy Bor makes a protest

A short while before the Acceptance Inspection went to the complex, the mayor of Sosnovy Bor, the town, where LNPP is situated, sent a letter to the Ministry for Nuclear Energy (Minatom), saying that local administration would go to court, in case the plant is put into operation.

This installation for radioactive metal waste processing has been built by a private joint stock company Ecomet-S without getting required state environmental evaluation. The plant will melt up to 8,000 tonnes of scrap metal per year. The metal is contaminated by such radionuclides as Mn-54, Co-60, Zn-65, Ru-106, Cs-134, Cs-137, Ce-144, Sr-90.

The building of the plant is an infringement of the legislation of the Russian Federation on the territory of a nuclear hazardous object – LNPP. The mayor points out that Ecomet-S violates the Laws On Use of Nuclear Energy, On Environmental Protection and On Environmental Impact Study.

In his letter, the mayor stresses, the plant has not passed the required environmental evaluation. In this situation the role of the Office of Public Prosecutor seems to be doubtful. Answering, for example, to letters of inquiry from Duma members, they said, no violation of the Russian laws can be seen in plant’s activities. Meanwhile, in particular, the lack of the environmental impact study is not denied even by Ecomet-S official representatives.

The documents, handed over to the town administration by the plant, say that its main purpose is reprocessing of the metal radioactive waste, produced by LNNP. But, in fact, the melting facility has been receiving radioactive waste from different edges of the country, and the complex is looking forward to the profits from its reprocessing and pure metal sales. It seems, that the radioactive waste, generated during reprocessing, is stored in the LNNP’s premises.

It means, the plant does not solve the problems of storing radioactive waste at LNNP, but causes additional difficulties, aggravated by the private status of the plant, actually supported by Minatom.

Radioactive wagon

“In August-October, 2001 low-active metal scrap from Glazov, Udmurtia, was brought for melting to Sosnovy Bor. The local administration and nuclear regulatory departments were not informed about the shipments,” writes the mayor in his letter.

As Bellona Web reported earlier, a train car with radioactive metal waste from Chepetsk mechanical plant in Udmurtia, arrived at Sosnovy Bor on October 16th. There were 10 casks filled with 20 tonnes of radioactive waste in the car. The maximum radiation level at the car surface exceeded the natural background radioactivity in 1000 times.

Neither the car, nor the casks had the required danger marking, while parked at the passenger terminal. According to the information of Green World envirogroup, which monitors the situation closely, in 2001 such shipments were regular. About 160 tonnes of radioactive metal were brought to the plant from Udmurtia.

LNNP’s security guards protesting

In the turn of 2001, the security guards of the LNNP checkpoints issued an open letter. Since the melting installation actually started, they are exposed to radioactivity, while their contracts do not stipulate unhealthy working conditions.

“Our attempts to learn the radioactive background level at the checkpoints meets counteraction. The radioactivity of the departing automobiles is measured by an Ecomet-S worker, who in fact represents an interested party. The arriving autos are not checked at all,” the guards wrote. The letter is signed by 89 persons.

The hope is that Leningrad County Governor’s statement was not a mere propaganda step, but a rare case, when the authority recognizes public concern about a hazardous object. But enviroactivists stress that governor keeps on lobbying other environmentally vulnerable projects, arousing public anxiety. In particular, project for building an aluminium plant in Vsevolozhsk is already started up. Krasny Bor, where hazardous industrial waste are stored, is planned to be a site for an underground NPP, oil terminal is being built on the Baltic shore, and an oil-refinery is being designed for Ermilovo, near the health resort zone.

The radioactive waste melting plant was built only few hundred meters away from the Baltic Sea, four kilometres from Sosnovy Bor with population of 60,000 inhabitants, 13km from the swan nature reserve, Lebiazhie, protected by the International Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, 80km from St Petersburg, 70km from Estonia, and 100km from Finland.

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