Moldova allows nuclear transit

Publish date: September 29, 1998

Written by: Igor Kudrik

Permission for nuclear transit through Moldova was granted by the Moldavian government, allowing the first load of spent fuel from Kozloduy NPP in Bulgaria to be shipped to Russia. An attempt to grant such permission in July this year ran into strong opposition from the rightist party in the Moldavian parliament.

The first train with spent nuclear fuel from Kozloduy Nuclear Power Plant started on September 15, to proceed to Mayak reprocessing plant in western Siberia. The train consists of 8 carriages loaded with 240 containers. The last shipment from Kozloduy NPP was performed seven years ago. The train’s route goes through Moldova and Ukraine.

On July 23, the Moldavian parliament was to ratify an agreement allowing the transit of nuclear fuel trough the territory of the republic. Unexpectedly, the rightist majority in the parliament barred the ratification, arguing that the transit would violate provisions of a number of Moldavian laws, including environmental legislation.

On August 13, the right was outvoted, and the government decided to allow the transit. In response, the opposition threatened to block the railways to prevent the nuclear shipment from passing through. A compromise reached later suggested forwarding the controversial transit agreement to the Constitutional Court of the republic. The decision of the Constitutional Court, dated September 18, said the agreement did not violate existing legislation of Moldova. The nuclear train started from Kozloduy three days earlier. The opposition said it would accept the court’s decision.

Bulgaria is among the four countries which continue to ship spent fuel for reprocessing at the Mayak plant in western Siberia (the others are the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Ukraine). In 1995, Finland decided to build a storage facility for spent nuclear fuel generated at Soviet-designed Lovisa Nuclear Power Plant (incidentally, this decision was prompted by Bellona environmentalists blocking the railway in front of a nuclear transport). The last shipment of spent nuclear fuel from Finland was performed in 1996. Hungary, although no official announcement has yet been made, commissioned a dry storage facility recently and will most likely stop its spent fuel shipments to other countries.

European Commission to shut down four reactors at Kozloduy NPP
Kozloduy NPP in Bulgaria operates four VVER-440 reactors and two VVER-1000 reactors commissioned in 1974, 1975, 1980, 1982, 1987, and 1991. Earlier, Bulgaria agreed to shut down the four VVER-440 reactor units by 2000. The Bulgarian government later reconsidered the plans, and granted permission to operate the units until 2005. However, this decision received sharp criticism from the European Commission this summer. The commission suggested aiding Bulgaria financially to shut down those four reactors, and provide funding of upgrades at the two remaining VVER-1000 reactors.

These developments may lead to a situation where the Mayak reprocessing plant will loose one more customer, with only the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Ukraine remaining. These three are contract-bound to ship fuel to Mayak until 2002.

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