The appeal is politically poignant as the city administration, as noted in the appeal, is comprised of members of the United Russia faction – Putin’s own political faction, dubbed the “party of power.’
“The surging resistance is tied to the fact that city managers are themselves members of the party of power who lobby for Rosatom interests [and] hinder the realization of our rights to a favourable environment,” reads the appeal. “[The city administration] has counteracted efforts to conduct a local referendum, which is guaranteed by the Russian Constitution’s guarantees ‘On the general principles of organizing local self government.’”
In their letter, civil society activists explain that Sosnovy Bor, a comparatively small seaside strip some 40 kilometres west of St. Petersburg on the Baltic Sea, has amassed a gigantic nuclear potential, from reactors at operating NPPs to scientific research institutes and factories working with radioactive materials.
And it is suggested that the Leningrad NPP 2 will be built there. According to the engineering schematics, Leningrad NPP 2 will employ so-called “wet” cooling towers for cooling purposes. This has elicited the dissatisfaction of town residents, who demand a review of a safer alternative cooling method.
“As of today, the efforts of Sosnovy Bor residents to forge a dialogue with Rosatom have not met with success,” read the letter. “There have been a few meetings between Rosatom representatives and the public, including a public hearing on the environmental impact study of the four reactors [of the LNPP 2], and three roundtable discussions.”
But residents complained in the letter that the “were left with the impressions that the atomic industry was listening only to itself,” and was simply conveying to the public the fact that new potentially dangerous installations that worsen ecological conditions and, as a result, the health of the population, would be built. Additionally, Rosatom has not taken into account alternative variants suggested by independent experts. The authors of the letter reminded Putin that, where a few years ago nuclear energy installations accounted for 80 percent of Sosnovy Bor’s budget, that number has sunk to a mere few percent.
Residents of Sosnovy Bor requested Putin’s cooperation in ceasing Rosatom projects on their municipality’s territory until a complex ecological expertise of development plans for Sosnovy Bor can be conducted, the organization the radiological monitoring, independent of Rosatom, of the 30-kilometre zone surrounding Leningrad NPP that was ceased in 2002 can be arranged, and a final decision against the building wet cooling towers for Leningrad NPP 2 can be adopted.
The appeal to Putin was signed by chairman of the board of the Native Coast environmental movement, the editor of Bellona’s Environment and Rights magazine, the Environment and Rights Centre (ERC) Bellona, and the head of the local fraction of the Yabloko Party, Green Russia. Other signatories included Leningrad Region Duma Deputy N. Kuzmin, Oleg Bodrov, head of the Sosnovy Bor-based environmental group Green World, members of the communist party and veterans of the atomic industry.
Protests against the proposed wet cooling towers have already taken place in Sosnovy Bor, with signature drives, and a referendum was initiated, and the right to hold it was upheld by Sosnovy Bor and regional courts. Currently the referendum has to be reviewed by the Sosnovy Bor city council.