Majority of Murmansk Region against the further development of nuclear power: Poll

Russland vil forlenge driftstiden for de to eldste og farligste atomreaktorene ved Kola Atomkraftverk med minimum 10 år. Foto: Thomas Nilsen
Foto: Thomas Nilsen

Publish date: February 21, 2008

Written by: Anna Kireeva

Translated by: Charles Digges

MURMANSK- A clear majority of Murmansk residents object to the extended engineering life spans granted by government nuclear officials to the Kola Nuclear Power Plant’s ageing reactors, at 85 percent, and another 87 percent oppose the construction of a new nuke plant in the are.

Only one percent of those who responded to the poll were fully behind further nuclear power development in the Murmansk Region.

The results were revealed by Vitaly Servetnik, chairman of the local Nature and Youth environmental organization at a press briefing here yesterday. The poll was conducted by Romir, a leading public opinion research firm by commission from Ecodefence and the G. Bellya Foundation.

Similar press conferences where held across Russia coinciding with the one held in Murmansk.

“The results of the poll demonstrate the population’s concern with the government’s plans for the development of nuclear energy and the construction of new nuclear power plants,” said Andrei Ponomarenko, coordinator of nuclear and radiation safety projects with Bellona-Murmansk.

Ponomarenko said he was pleased that members of the Murmansk Regional Government attended the press briefing, and said it was especially useful for them to hear local citizen’s express their opinions on the pressing regional question.

Poll confirms wide-spread opinion

“Romir’s research confirms what Nature and Youth has been talking about for years: that nuclear power plants are unpopular, dangerous, and economically unjustified,” said Servetnik.

“We insist that any project of the nuclear industry in the Murmansk Region not be realised without a popular referendum. This concerns also concerns the life extension plans for the two old reactors at the Kola nuclear power plant, which are now working beyond their engineered life expectancy.”

The Romir poll revealed that a majority of local residents, at 52 percent, consider it is necessary to develop sources of renewable energy above all. Some 26 percent favour energy based on oil and 23 percent on natural gas. Nuclear energy development captured the support of only two percent of those polled.

“We will further insist on curtailing nuclear energy, considering it dangerous and unpopular, and laying eyes on a future with renewable energy source,” Servetnik told Bellona Web.

Commenting on the creation of a Murmansk Region societal council working group within Russia’s federal agency for atomic energy (Rosatom), Servetnik said Nature and Youth abstained from participating. He said he did not consider the Social Council the appropriate place for discussions, saying it was a “propaganda structure for Rosatom to give itself a gold star for work with the public.”

The Social Council

The Social Council for work with Rosatom was created this week ostensibly to discuss questions of the safe use of nuclear energy.

The council is to work on a pubic basis and its goal is to make recommendations towards nuclear power related issues, environmental protection, and nuclear and radiation safety, the safe development of nuclear industry enterprises in the Murmansk Region, and also to inform the public about issues connected with nuclear energy use.

“There is absolutely nothing new in this – this is a typical thing for a region where there are several nuclear installations working,” said Bellona-Murmansk chairman, Andrei Zolotkov. “It is the first council of its type in the region, but previous ones did nothing noticeable to distinguish themselves.

Arguments over make-up of council

The council is comprised of representatives of the Murmansk Regional government, the Kola Nuclear Power Plant, scientific institutes, a number of ecological organizations and representatives of the press.

According to Bellona-Murmansk’s Ponomarenko, the council is useful for raising the awareness of the public to atomic energy.

“It is disappointing that a real counterweight to scientists, specialists and bureaucrats to the number of representatives of ecological and social organizations and associations is so low,” said Ponomarenko.

Representatives on the council supporting the nuclear industry are convinced of the opposite.

“Professionals must be on the council. If it only included ecological organisations, then there will be no sense to it,” said Arkadyt Khessi, director of the inspectorate for nuclear and radiation safety oversight at the Kola Nuclear Power Plant during the first meeting of the council.

Servetnik said that the council should not be discussing questions of developing nuclear energy in the region but, solving issues related to taking the first and second reactor units at the Kola Nuclear Power Plant out of service, and preparation to shut down the third and fourth reactor blocks. The council should also address programmes for the safe disposition of already existing radioactive waste.