Rad Metal Smelting Plant: Trial Began

Publish date: August 29, 2002

On Tuesday, Sosnovy Bor’s court in Leningrad county started considering an appeal against the decision to launch radioactive metal smelting plant “Ecoment-S”.

On Tuesday, Sosnovy Bor’s court in Leningrad county started considering an appeal, lodged by Sergey Kharitonov (ERC “Bellona”, St Petersburg). He claims, the decision to launch radioactive metal smelting plant “Ecoment-S” is illegal.

The radioactive metal smelting plant Ekomet-S is situated on the premises of the Leningrad Nuclear Power plant (LAES), only few hundred meters away from the shore of the Baltic Sea shore and four kilometres from Sosnovy Bor’s 60,000 inhabitants. The closed nuclear town itself is located 80km from St Petersburg.

The plant, already in operation, was built secretly and without the state environmental impact study, which is required by Russian legislation. “That violates constitutional rights of people living here”, Sergey Kharitonov says. Documents to launch the plant were signed on February 12th, 2002 by deputy Minister for Nuclear Energy Valery Lebedev.

The facility, which is devoted to the smelting and decontamination of radioactive metals for resale on the open market, was built by the Ministry for Nuclear Energy — the notorious Minatom — and fissile fuel monopolists hoping to cash in on the smelting of radioactive metal waste from nuclear power plants across Russia. Gazprom-bank invested $10m in the project. The plant is designed to melt up to 5,000 tons 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.

Today the plant keeps on working. On August 18th, at 4.15 am, there was an accident with an emission of melted metal. One worker was burned up to 16% of the body, and was hospitalized. Study of technology is a part of the state environmental impact study.

“When I lodged my complaint, I asked to halt the plant until the court’s decision, and the accident could be avoided”, Sergey Kharitonov says. Though the judge sent him a letter, asking if he was ready to pay for the damage, the plant would suffer, if it’s halted. Sergey answered, he was ready to pay, but we will speak about damages only after the state environmental impact study – “All the amounts of profits Ecomet-S is mentioning now are groundless, because they don’t count money they will surely have to pay for environmental damage”. The judge took an one-month respite, and then answered to Sergey, the question was premature.

Yesterday’s hearing was postponed to October, 16th, because in three months period, since the time Sergey filed his complaint, the court didn’t find a chance to officially invite deputy Minister for Nuclear Energy to the trial. “It’s very strange, the court didn’t do that in time”, says Alexey Pavlov of ERC “Bellona”, Sergey’s lawyer.

Earlier a similar suit was started at St Petersburg’s arbitration court by the Sosnovy Bor’s Assembly of representatives. But finally, after three court sessions held, this local governmental was acknowledged to be not authorized to file such suits.