Duma drafts nuclear imports law

Publish date: June 1, 1999

Written by: Igor Kudrik

Mutants march in support for nuclear imports in Moscow today.

Moscow Youth Yabloko party and Socio-Ecological Union staged a protest in front of the State Duma, Russian lower chamber of parliament, against import of spent nuclear fuel to Russia today. The action, titled the March of Mutants, is prompted by the recent attempts to amend legislation in favour of foreign spent nuclear fuel imports to Russia for storage/reprocessing.

In February this year, the Duma started this process by proposal to amend the Law On Environmental Protection. The initiative, encouraged by the Ministry for Atomic Energy (Minatom), received support among all the Duma factions, but Yabloko, a reformers minority in the parliament. Yet the attempt turned to be a failure after protests by the Duma Environmental Committee and NGOs.

In late April, a group of Duma members came up with a draft of Law on Industrial Storage and Reprocessing of Spent Nuclear Fuel. The law was to remove all the legal roadblocks towards import of foreign spent fuel. The State Environmental Committee, former Ministry of Environment, has refused to approve the draft twice. The draft has not been put up for public hearing in the Duma yet.

"The law stands good chances to be approved by the State Duma, in case there are no protests," Andrey Sharomov, leader of Moscow Youth Yabloko party, told Bellona Web. "Duma members love to have financial backing for the voting, so if there are protests the chances are still good: However, they would be significantly lower," Sharomov added.

Meanwhile the financial backing promised by Minatom’s head, Yevgeny Adamov, is more than tempting for a country with ruined economy. Adamov reassures that spent nuclear fuel collection from other countries is a "$150 billion business" and "a golden opportunity for Russia."

"Yabloko will oppose this law at all levels," Andrey Sharomov assured.

"If the law is approved, Russia will become an international nuclear dumpsite, while Minatom’s bureaucrats and their lobbyists in the Duma will get billions of dollars on their bank accounts," states Vladimir Slivyak, Socio-Ecological Union’s antinuclear campaigner.

In the meantime, to turn Adamov’s words into reality, the U.S. based Non-proliferation Trust Inc. has proposed to Minatom to collect and ship to Russia 6,000 metric tons of spent fuel. The profit is modest in comparison to what Adamov promises – $4 billion – but it might be just a beginning of a long-term big business.