ST. PETERSBURG – Hundreds of thousands of tons of dirt from the construction site of the Leningrad Nuclear Power Plant 2 are being dumped in the wrong place in the Lomonosov and Sosnovy Bor districts of the Leningrad Region, where the plant and its older brother, the Leningrad Nuclear Power Plant, are located.
Residents of Sosnovy Bor – 50 kilometers west of St. Petersburg – and surrounding areas are sounding the alarm, but state authorities consider any complaint to be an effort to impede the progress of the federal project.
Information on unsanctioned dumping of the dirt from the construction site began to emerge as early as February this year, however nuclear industry workers ignored the complaints about the dumping violations.
The Sosnovy Bor environmental group Green World visited the construction site on July 23rd to ask about the dumping violations, but group head Oleg Bodrov said that the nuclear power plant’s administration again denied responsibility for any violations.
“The issue of removing dirt is regulated by authorities. The dirt taken from the site is not contaminated – it’s certified that it is not waste, but useful material, that it can be used for sale,” said Dmitry Averyanov, the Leningrad Nuclear Power Plant’s press secretary, in an interview with Bellona Web.
“Where the dirt gets sent is decided by local administration authorities.”
On July 4th, the press service for Russia’s nuclear utility Rosenergoatom reported that “around 300,000 cubic meters of dirt were removed from the construction site of the Leningrad Nuclear Power Plant 2.” Nuclear industry workers say they have received all necessary permissions and agreements to do this.
Nonetheless, Sosnovy Bor residents are seeing a different picture. Early Friday morning, according to the head of the Sosnovy Bor Administration’ Ecology Committee, Natalya Malevannaya, four dump trucks loaded with dirt were stopped.
“According to citizens, they were dumping dirt in every noon and cranny on the way from the construction site,” she said.
According to Green World’s data, 300 tons of dirt has already been removed from the Leningrad Nuclear Power Plant 2 construction site. Much of it has ended up spread over valuable land, such as plots of young trees that were planted to make up for clear-cutting in the Lomonosov Region. Dirt is also showing up in protected water areas, like the Kovashi rivers, and inundated quarries.
“This dirt is mineral poor, having been excavated from depths of 13 or 14 meters – nothing is going to grow on it and will remain a poison on the land,” Bodrov said.
Appeals to the Russian Natural Resources Ministry and the Committee for State Ecological Control in the Leningrad Region have produced no results. The single agency taking any steps to stop the violations is the police. Trucks have already been pulled over and fined. But the trucks just turn around and go dump somewhere else.
A scandal requiring measures
“We only have one resort – that is wide public support,” said Malevannaya, even though all requests for help are just falling on deaf ears.
“Regardless of where the complaints are coming from, they are regarded as a hindrance to completing a federal project,” she said.
Bureaucrats have already spent some time thinking of ways to minimise public input on large-scale projects. Public hearings and environmental impact studies have, since 2007, been struck down as required steps in any building project. According to environmentalists, the public hearings held in Sosnovy Bor on the construction of the Leningrad Nuclear Power Plant 2 were little more than window dressing and held no legal force.
According to Malevannaya, the state environmental impact report on the Leningrad Nuclear Power Plant 2 that was presented at the 2007 hearings made no mention of how the plant’s nuclear waste would be handled. It is unknown if the engineering documents for the second plant even contain plans for nuclear waste storage.
As a result of recent legislative changes, the jurisdiction of local authorities has been whittled down to a minimum, They only give out construction sites and conduct public hearings, whose results will be flushed down the toilet.
“When I as a commission member signed an act choosing the land tract for the construction, one of the conditions in it was solving the problems of dealing with waste,” said Malevannaya.
“And now where are these conditions,” she said.
According to current legislation, all engineering documents for any large-scale projects are approved by federal authorities and local administrations, and the public has practically no resources with which to influence the process.