Evironmentalists disappointed with sham public hearing on Leningrad NPP 2

Rashid Alimov

Publish date: February 9, 2007

Written by: Rashid Alimov

Translated by: Charles Digges

SOSNOVY BOR, Northwest Russia - Environmentalists said Wedneday's public hearing on the building of a second Leningrad Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) to be known as Leningrad NPP 2 was little more than a cosmetic attempt to enlist enthusiam for the project, and said that the outcome of the meeting carried no legal status.

Public hearings on the construction of any structure that might impact the enviroment are a requirment of Russian law. But the procedures are often little more than window dressing for contractors to make decorative but empty attempts at fulfilling their legal requirements – if indeed they bother to hold hearings at all.

A throng of residents of Sosnovy Bor– the home to the LNPP and the prospective location of LNPP 2 – braved minus double digit temparatures to crowd the doors of Sosnovy Bor’s House of Culture where the “Public Hearing on the Evaluation of the Environmental Impact of the Leningrad NPP 2 project” was held

One of the organizers of the event shouted out from behind the door that there was no room for the public, and summoned a police officer to stand guard at the locked door.

The doors did open once to allow officials from Rosenergoatom – Russia’s nuclear energy utility – and representatives of one foreign consulate to enter, but the door slammed shut again.

The foyer of the House of Culture was stacked with glossy Rosenergoatom-published brochures and magazines and LNPP press releases. There were, however, no copies of the “Evaluation of Environmental Impact” (OVOS in its Russian acronym) that was the subject of the hearing, available to the public.

bodytextimage_photo1.JPG Photo: Rashid Alimov/Bellona

But will these facilities if built, asked Chuprov rhetorically, be cleaner and safer than the notorious Mayak reprocessing facility?

Rosenergoatom’s Aslamov asserted that “Russia has the technology to deal with spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste.” This despite the fact that Mayak routinely runs at only 25 percent of its engineered capacity and can handle waste only from older generation reactors and submarines.

The current LNPP cools itself by emptying its excess heat into the Gulf of Finland. The two VVER-1150 blocks anticipated for the LNPP 2 will be cooled by four 150-meter cooling towers. In the prepared OVOS, the authors confess that the cooling towers could lead to a change in air temperature, the creation of fog, and intensified fallout of radioactive aerosols. Radioactive isotopes from the LNPP chimney spread out over a wide area, but when they start to mingle with larger drops of steam emissions from the cooling tower, they fall over a smaller area, notably over Sosnovy Bor.

“I fear that Sosnovy Bor will become a city of radioactive fog,” said Lina Zernova, a representative of the green faction of the Yabloko political party.

According to the plan and to existing practices, radiation safety and taking the nuclear power stations out of service should be financed by the money a plant makes on electricity sales. Today, these funds are far too depleated to cover all active stations. There exists today no plan to decommission and dismantle the existing LNPP. The authors of the LNPP 2 plan have suggested nothing principally new for decommissioning that plant when the time comes, and how this question will be resolved is open to speculation.

“The authors of the project don’t want to see cheap and safe alternatives to nuclear power for regional energy development – such as modernizing gas powered plants. New technologies allow one to burn gas in a more rational manner – with a coefficient of useful energy of more than 50 percent as opposed to the current 30 percent. With their help, we can easily get by without new nuclear reactors,” said Chuprov.