Protesting nuclear waste imports to Russia: Three activists taken to custody

Three activists, among them leader of the youth branch of the Yabloko political party, were taken to custody by the police, after having unfolded a banner with the message "No more nuclear waste" in front of the Russian Ministry for Atomic Energy (Minatom) on Monday, December 9. All three were fined for arranging an "unauthorised action" by the Moscow District Court two hours later and released.

The action was prompted by a meeting at the ministry, where Minatom met with representatives from Bulgaria to work out further shipments of spent nuclear fuel from the Soviet designed Bulgarian Kozloduy nuclear power plant.

Bulgaria resumed shipment of spent nuclear fuel to the Russian Mayak plant for reprocessing in September this year after an almost 10 years long break. The next shipment is scheduled for the beginning of 1999.

In addition, fuel transportation from Hungary and the Ukraine is in the plans for the next year.

Violation of environmental legislation
Shipment of spent nuclear fuel is conducted in violation of the Russian Law on Environment, which effectively prohibits import of radioactive waste to Russia. Minatom refers to the fact that waste generated during reprocessing will be sent back to the country of origin. This argumentation is insufficient, however, as a part of the waste is dumped directly under the ground at Mayak. Letting alone the fact that Mayak’s verification facility, which converts liquid highly active waste into a solidified substance, has been out of operation for almost two years. A new facility is unlikely to be commissioned shortly, due to the funding shortcomings.

"We do not want the future of our next generations to be buried by Minatom today," said Vladimir Slivyak, Ecodefence antinuclear campaigner who took part in the protest. "Minatom’s activities to create an international nuclear dumpsite in Russia are ethically criminal and economically unprofitable in most cases," added Slivyak.

The shipment of spent fuel from Bulgaria has created a stir among both Russian and Western environmental groups. Around 200 Western and Russian organisations have stated their concern over such practises the last few months.