Minatom loses first round

Publish date: August 26, 1999

Written by: Igor Kudrik

Russian Nuclear Ministry fails to persuade government to allow spent nuclear fuel imports. More attempts to follow.

The Russian Ministry for Atomic Energy (Minatom) failed to persuade the Russian Cabinet to amend the Law on Environmental Protection to allow spent fuel imports. Russia’s Nuclear Energy Minister, Yevgeniy Adamov, said at a briefing after the government’s meeting today that he would discuss the decision with all the cabinet members to convince them to vote for the amendment.

Deputy Nuclear Minister Valentin Ivanov reported to the Russian Cabinet this morning on the financial benefits of allowing imports of spent nuclear fuel to Russia for storage and reprocessing, the Russian news agency RBC reported. Ivanov said revenue estimates from the international reprocessing market vary from US $50 billion to 70 billion. Russia’s share could be $20-21 billion over 10 years once the Law on Environmental Protection is amended. According to Ivanov, the required initial investment to improve the infrastructure is estimated at $2.6 billion, while other costs would amount to $10.5 billion.

Ivanov also said that there would be 200,000 tonnes of spent nuclear fuel world wide by 2000. This number would increase to up to 550,000 tonnes by the year 2025. Russia will possess 15,000 tonnes of spent nuclear fuel of her own by 2000. The number will more than double (35,000 tonnes) by the year 2025. Finally, Ivanov added that Russia could reprocess 400 tonnes annually at the Mayak plant in Siberia. Given completion of the RT-2 plant in Krasnoyarsk County, Russia’s capacity would be boosted to almost 1,500 tonnes a year. The full capacity at RT-2 is estimated at 3,000 tonnes per year.

The outcome of the Cabinet’s debate was disappointing for Yevgeniy Adamov. Minatom apparently did not convince the parliamentarians. Now, Adamov has to discuss this subject with every member of the government face to face, explaining the pros and cons. Adamov would not specify how long time this would take.

A press-spokesman for Minatom, Vladislav Petrov, would not elaborate on the reasons for the decision when reached by Bellona Web today. He said his boss, Adamov, did not want to speculate on that.

NPT’s traces
The idea to import spent fuel for reprocessing was revived by Minatom when the U.S. based Non-Proliferation Trust (NPT) suggested storage of 10,000 tonnes of nuclear fuel in Russia. The proceeds of the deal would pay for design and construction of the central Russian radwaste and spent fuel repository, for remediation of radioactively contaminated areas in Russia and for social projects. But despite objections from NPT, Minatom decided to enlarge the idea and propose unlimited fuel imports to Russia with the purpose of reprocessing.