Karelian nuclear power plant to be built on sly

Publish date: February 17, 2002

Written by: Rashid Alimov

Russian government signed a program, suggesting building a nuclear power plant in Karelia without consultations either with the local authorities, or with the public.

Member of Russian parliament, representing Karelia, Valentina Pivnenko, will lodge an official inquiry to the Prime Minister about plans to complete design of the Karelian NPP. “Ignoring the opinion of the local people is exasperating,” IA Rosbalt quoted her as saying.

Document in 230 pages

On December 29th 2001, Russian government issued a decree No 923 “On changes and additions in the federal Program Energy Efficient Economics for the Years 2002-2005 and till 2010 in the Long-range Outlook”.

This document is remarkable not only for its sophisticated title, the Program is a huge volume on 230 sheets. Karelian government at first did not notice a small item about building Karelian NPP. But when this item was noticed, it became a real cause to clutch the head.

The Program requires “evaluation and feasibility study” for Karelian NPP, which would operate on four 700 MW power-units, and the plant is planned for the year 2007.

The press-service of the Karelian government told Bellona Web: “We saw the Program at first in the Internet, on the site of the Energy Ministry, and we were deeply surprised. We decided, some fault happened. Then we called the Ministry for Nuclear Energy, and they said, they had no relation to these plans.”

The statement of the Karelian head

Last Monday, the head of Karelia, Sergey Katanandov made an official statement on the Program. “Neither I, nor any other member of the Karelian government was invited to discuss this problem [building of a nuclear plant],” he said. He mentioned that on February 15th 1990, taking into account the public opinion, Presidium of the Supreme Council of Karelia prohibited to build and design Karelian NPP.

Katanandov stressed that Karelia is a territory with a unique natural system, bordering on the European Union. The decision to recommence the design work cannot be made without consultations with the government of Karelia, without taking into consideration opinion of the local people and without an accurate environmental impact study.

The governmental decree also violates the articles 13 and 32 of the Federal Law On the Environmental Protection, which requires a mandatory assessment of the project’s impact on the environment.

“If the governmental decree wouldn’t be nullified, I reserve to myself the right to initiate a referendum in the republic,” the Karelian head claimed.

Nuclear Power Plant in Tiiksa

In November, Bellona Web wrote about the dismay, caused by a statement of the director of Finnish Centre for Radiation and Nuclear Safety (STUK) Hannu Koponen, that he had information that a new nuclear plant might be built near Tiiksa in Karelia.

Karelian authorities told us that time, deeply surprised, that there really had been some ideas to build a NPP in Tiiksa in the early 1990s, some research had been carried out, but the plans had been rejected soon.

Tiiksa, a village in the Muezersk district in Karelia, is located in 60km from the Russian-Finnish border. At present, there are about 640 inhabitants in Tiiksa, a half of them are pensioners. The whole Muezersk district has no harmful industries: the majority of its population is engaged in logging.

The pulp and paper industry is the most developed industry in Karelia. Natural conditions of Karelia resemble the ones of the neighboring Finland, where producing of energy from the wood, the by-product of the mentioned industry, has been promoted heavily during the last decade and has increased its volume for more than 70%. In 1999 wood fuels supplied 19,5% of the Finnish energy consumption. In Karelia there are a lot of the same wood fuels.

The alternative sources of energy seem to be much more preferable, than building a new nuclear giant.

The press-service of the Karelian government told Bellona Web: “The republican authorities are going to check, if there is any activity in Tiiksa, connected with building a new nuclear plant.”

Finland concerned

Moreover, plans to build a nuclear power plant raised concern in Finland. Finnish Greenpeace campaigner, Harri Lammi, said to Bellona Web: “That concerns interest of the Finnish public a lot. We don’t understand, why Russia doesn’t use alternative sources of energy, which are safer? Why Russia should invest in the expensive and potentially dangerous nuclear plants and doesn’t think of energy efficiency, which would be the best? And plans of Russian Ministry for Nuclear Energy to export electricity to Finland, in my opinion, are groundless.”

To build a nuclear plant on the sly

Official rejection of juridical norms by the Russian nuclear industry is simply shocking. Sometimes representatives of the government fail to recall at a Supreme Court session, whether there had been any environmental evaluation, required by the Law, before the radioactive waste from Hungary had been shipped to the Mayak combine in Siberia. Sometimes, excusing an enterprise in the premises of Leningrad NPP, which was supported by the Nuclear Energy Ministry, but failed to pass the state evaluation, the Ministry’s representative calls the state environmental evaluation itself a legal casuistry.

A month and a half passed, until the Karelian government found in a 230-page document a short item to build a nuclear plant in the republic. One can only wonder, whether the activities around Karelian NPP will continue to develop on the sly? And whether it is possible that one day a new shining nuclear giant would grow on the Russian-Finnish border, while the local people would shake their heads: they were said a saw-mill was being built.

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