Prosecutors contradict the Kola NPP

Publish date: November 18, 2005

Written by: Rashid Alimov

ST. PETERSBURG—The Kola NPP has pitted its word against prosecutors by saying the Murmansk prosecutor has no further questions for the plant regarding an apparently illegal license it received to extend the operational life-spans of its Nos. 1 and 2 reactors.


On the contrary, Murmansk prosecutors confirm they have sent documents regarding the illegality of the reactor extension to the Prosecutor General’s office in Moscow, meaning the questions are just beginning.

“The topic is exhausted, and the Prosecutors’ office does not have any more questions to Kola NPP”, reads a statement published at the plant’s web site. But the prosecutors refute such allegations.

“Documents on Kola NPP have already been sent to the General Prosecutors’ Office”, chief assistant of the Murmansk regional prosecutors’ office public relations department Olga Vasileyeva told Bellona Web.

Specifically, Murmansk prosecutors sent to Moscow their rulings on illegality of life extension of the 1 and 2 blocks without carrying out environmental impact studies. After General Prosecutors Office takes action about the documents, it’s possible that prosecutors will bring Kola NPP or the licensing body to court for neglecting these rulings.

The Nos. 1 and 2 reactor at the KNPP went online in 1973 and 1974 respectively and are part of Russia’s first generation of reactors—the VVER 440/230 type. They were designed to work for 30 years. Correspondingly, they should have been shut down in 2003 and 2004.

But this did not happen. Instead, their operational life-spans, with a few upgrades, were issued. The license for the their five-year operation extensions—granted by Russia’s civilian nuclear regulator Gosatomnadzor, the Federal Service for Energy, Technological and Atomic Oversight (FSETAN) predecessor—were issued without conducting an obligatory state environmental impact study. Conducting such federal level studies is mandated by the law “On environmental impact studies” in article 11, because the initial project has been changed, and also because KNPP activities may impact environment of the neighbouring regions and, ecological problems are not hindered by borders.

In April 2005, the Murmansk Regional Prosecutor issued a ruling to annul the violations surrounding the reactor life-span extensions and force the regulatory body Rostekhnadzor and Rosenergoatom, Russian’s nuclear power plant operations conglomerate, to carry out the environmental impact studies. But they weren’t ready to fulfill the rulings by the prosecutors, saying coolly that the plant doesn’t need any state environmental study because it is already built. But according to the legislation, any change in the project—the initial project was designed for only 30 years of operation—requires a new environmental study, which includes public hearings. The Murmansk Prosecutors again ordered the Rostekhnadzor and Rosenergoatom to fulfill the earlier order, but again got nothing but curt, formal replies in response.

Public environmental organizations continue to monitor the activities of the prosecutors’ office.

‘Kola NPP and other environmentalists of the region’
The Kola NPP press-service evidently tries to turn environmental organisations in the area against one another.

Specifically, Nature and Youth, which staged a recent protest against operational life-span extensions was singled out and accused by the Kola NPP’s press service of stirring up conflict in an area where none exists. Meanwhile, the Kola NPP’s press-service said “the Kola NPP and other environmentalists in the region” advocate “a mutual exchange of views in a calm and friendly atmosphere.”

The press service gave as an examlple of a “calm and friendly atmosphere” the visits of several environmental organisations to the plant in June 2005.

Nontheless, the fact remains that the position of Nature and Youth is supported by powerful environmental organisations such as Ecodefence! and Bellona, among others including Russia’s top environmentalist, Alexei Yablokov, ex-President Boris Yeltsin’s for ecological advisor.

“If the measures taken for life-span extensions for the Kola NPP’s reactors no.1 and 2 are enough, and all the documentation needed is prepared in a good quality, why can’t the Kola NPP administration call it design documentation and carry out all the procedures needed, including the state environmental impact study and public hearings,” Sergei Zhavoronkin, head of Bellona Murmansk, told Bellona Web after the June visit of environmentalists to the plant.

After the June visit to the plant, the participating organisatons—including Nature and Youth, Bellona Murmansk and Gaia—did indeed thank the Kola NPP administration for organizing their trip. But according to legislation, the tour for environmentalists was not the result of the plant’s good will, but rather their duty. Furthermore interpreting the assessments of the groups who visited the plant as a ”positive estimation of safety increasing efforts of the KNPP,” as the Kola NPP press service did, is a gross exaggeration. This is especially so given that all their efforts amount to nothing in the face of the reactor life-span extensions.

Yes, constructive dialog with the plant is welcome, but this does not mean that environmentalists will abandon their position in order to keep the dialog afloat.

The Kola NPP’s representatives last June also deliberately deceived the public by saying the United Kingdom, Japan, and France prolong the operational life-spans of their reactors by 60 years, where Russia only prolongs them for 15. The figures were broadcast by the journalists and taken as received wisdom, but in fact, the concept of an operational 90-year-old reactor is a utterly ridiculous.

Furthermore, Russian nuclear regulators grant extension licenses for five year—not a day more—so the Kola NPP was, at best, confused on the legal terms of extensions, or at worst feeding a credulous public absolute nonsense about the letter of the law.

Decisions affecting millions of people were made without the obligatory state environmental impact study or any public participation whatsover. This is an overwhelming violation of the rights of those who are subjected to great risk, both those living in the area surrounding the Kola NPP, but also the populations of Finland, Norway and all of European Russia. The decision was made, but the state environmental impact study and the public hearings were cast aside.

In such circumstances, the manner in which people protest—be it by “creating a conflict,” or in a “calm and friendly atmosphere"—is their choice, and not a thing to be decided by the administration of the Kola NPP. It is clear though, that however people protest, the Kola NPP press service is on the spot to distort the meaning of their words.