The theme of the report presented at Wednesday’s press conference in Krasnoyarsk is Russia’s policies in the sphere of nuclear power, and the structure and current state of its nuclear complex, which has remained largely unchanged since Soviet times.
The report contains a detailed overview of the current state of Russia’s nuclear industry, as well as recommendations for improving safety and dealing with potential threats.
The authors of the report are Bellona employees Alexander Nikitin, Igor Kudrik, Nils Bøhmer, and Charles Digges, as well as Vladimir Kuznetsov of the Green Cross nuclear safety project, and environmentalist and journalist Vladislav Larin of the NGO Ecopress Centre.
At the press conference, Nikitin devoted special focus to the construction in Zheleznogorsk of the new RT-2 spent nueal fuel (SNF)reprocessing facility, and gave a number of reasons why construction should be halted. Zheleznogork is some 40 kilometers from Krasnoyarsk.
According to Nikitin, the SNF processing facility is economically not feasible.
Without a doubt, this will make quick bucks on a huge scale, but the money is in no way commensurate with the losses. Construction of this facility will create yet another nuclear dumping ground in Russia.
If RT-2 is built (and some estimates say it wlll take 30 years to do so) radioactive waste will be transported through a tunnel under the Yenisei River for underground storage on the opposite bank.
Storing liquid radioactive waste underground, which many Rosatom experts think is an effective and environmentally safe way to store radioactive waste, is a very controversial and dangerous idea, Nikitin said.
At the Severny firing range some 4-6 kilometres from the Yenisei, some five million cubic meters of liquid radioactive waste have already been buried. At present, the underground radioactivity is gradually moving towards a tributary to the Yenisei the Bolshoi Tel River. Underground storage of liquid radioactive waste has been practised for more than 30 years at the Siberian Chemical Combine and the Dmitrovgrad Nuclear Reactor Institute.
According to Nikitin, other countries have already shown that repocessing spent nuclear fuel is economically inefficient.
Experts say that the amount required to finish construction of the first part of the RT-2 facility has been substantially cut by the Nuclear Power Ministry Rosatom’s predecessor, which puts construction costs at $2 billion dollars. In comparison, the Thorp facility at Sellafield in England has half of the capacity that RT-2 is supposed to have, yet cost $4.35 billion in 1994. The facility at Rokkasho in Japan, which deals with 800 tonnes of spent nuclear fuel, cost $17 billion.
Construction of the RT-2 SNF reprocessing facility, which is projected to have a capacity of 1,500 tonnes of SNF, began in 1984. In 1989, the USSR’s nuclear energy ministry halted construction following protests by residents of Krasnoyarsk Region. In January 1991, the ministry adopted a resolution to halt construction for five years.
In 1994, construction was allowed to resume following a Presidential "Order On State Support for Structural Reconstruction and Conversion of the Nuclear Industry at Zheleznogorsk, Krasnoyarsk Region."