Russia unprepared for dismantling nuclear power plants

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“Lithuania has turned out to be a step, even two steps ahead of Russia,” said Saulius Vytas Pikšrys, and activist from the Lithuanian organization Atgaja at a St. Petersburg press briefing. At the briefing, environmentalists discussed their various visions for decommissioning nuclear power plants that had exceeded their engineered life spans.

At current, six of Russia’s 31 nuclear energy blocks have surpassed their engineered service life.

“The Ignalina nuclear power plant was a city-forming enterprise,” said Pikšrys. “Environmentalists and union workers participated in adopting the law on additional guarantees for employment and social guarantees for Ignalina workers in conjunction with taking reactors out of service.”

Some conclusions forwarded by Oleg Bodrov – a Russian environmentalist from the town of Sosnovy Bor, where the Leningrad Nuclear Power Plant is located – were disquieting.

“Russia is not ready to begin taking nuclear power stations out of service – nonetheless, decisions have to be made about this immediately and the processes must be transparent,” he said.

Nevertheless Bordrov was upbeat about the decommissioning being carried out by Russia’s nuclear agency Rosatom: “Rosatom is supporting us.”

He added that “Rosatom has even earmarked funding to bring the mahyors of three (Russian) nuclear cities to Germany and Lithuania, where they have taken reactors our of service.”

On the question that Russian legislation no longer requires public consultations with the community around which any major project is carried out by the community and the state in an obligatory fashion, the briefing’s organisers said that they depend on atomic unions and municipal authorities of cities where nuclear power plants are located – so-called atomic cities.

“Democracy is a complicated joke, and we were not silent in the 90s. And if they slammed the door on us, we came in through the window,” said Pikšrys. “Today we have the help of European Commission directorates.”

The biggest problem cited by participants in the briefing was a lack of a legislative structure surrounding decommissions reactors.

“In the bowels of Rosatom exists a bill on handling radioactive waste, but we were not able to get hold of its text via official channels,” said Lidia Popova from Moscow’s Centre for Nuclear Environmentalism and Energy Policy.

“The single positive thing in the legislation consists in the fact that they use one system for dealing with radioactive waste. Social defence for workers who were let go as a consequence of (Ignalina’s closure falls beyond the scope of the legislation,” said Popova.

Aside from that, the legislation stipulates that the cost of taking the reactors out of service will be done on the state budget – that is to say by Russian taxpayers, she said.

“In such a way, the plan for the law cannot be adopted,” said Popova. “At present, funds for taking nuclear reactors out of service is altogether not in keeping with the plan to develop nuclear energy,”

Olga Krivonos, Bellona-St. Petersburg’s lawyer, wrote this piece.