The Russian Minister of Atomic Energy, Victor Mikhailov, visited St. Petersburg to take part in the opening of a TACIS-funded educational centre for atomic energy on May 14.
Prompted by journalists, Mikhailov claimed that the total activity of nuclear materials and radioactive wastes accumulated in Russia amounts to 1,5 billion Curie. Apparently, the minister forgot the fact that the liquid waste generated at the 13 military reactors located in Chelaybinsk-65, Tomsk-7 and Krasnoyrask-26 constitutes some 2,3 billion Curie by itself, while spent nuclear fuel from nuclear power plants, amounting to some 10,000 tons for the year 1995, had a total activity of 5 billion Curie. Some 80% of this fuel can not be reprocessed and has to be stored.
Waste processing and disposal projects proceed in slow motion due to the lack of proper funding. According to Mikhailov, the ministry last year allocated 20 million USD for handling of radioactive waste, while current estimates call for an annual minimum of 50 million USD. Minatom spent 350 million USD in 1996 on safety upgrades at Russian nuclear power plants.
Meanwhile, the debts of various energy consumers to the Ministry of Atomic Energy reached almost 3 billion USD by the beginning of 1997. On the other hand, in 1996 Minatom exports reached 2 billion USD, a 10% increase from 1995.