Greenpeace action in Chelyabinsk

Publish date: September 22, 2000

Written by: Thomas Nilsen

Eight activists from Greenpeace Russia were arrested today after they put up a banner on the Kurchatov statue in Chelyabinsk protesting the plans for nuclear waste import. On Thursday they blocked the road entrance to the closed city of Ozersk where Mayak is located.

Greenpeace fears that Chelyabinsk might be the dumping ground for nuclear waste from all round the world if the Russian Ministry of Nuclear Energy (Minatom) gets approval for its plans to open up for import of spent nuclear fuel. Russia’s only operating reprocessing facility for spent fuel (RT-1) is located in Mayak, just north of Chelyabinsk.

Early morning today, four activists climbed up to the top of the Kurchatov statue near the Technical University in Chelyabinsk. At lunchtime, the four, together with four others on the ground were arrested by the local police.

The slogan set up was saying, "Nuclear waste: Money for the officials – coffins for the people."


On Thursday, other activists from Greenpeace and a local environmental organisation from the village of Muslymovo blocked the main road to the closed nuclear city of Ozersk, where the Mayak nuclear enterprises are situated. Five persons hold a slogan saying, "We don’t want to live in a nuclear waste dump." They also placed out some buckets containing radioactive contaminated soil from the shore of the Tetcha River in Muslymovo.

Greenpeace demands a referendum in Russia about the planned nuclear waste import. The lobby campaign from Minatom on lifting the existing legislation, which bans the import of foreign radioactive waste to Russia, needs a referendum response from the population says Greenpeace.

It’s not only Greenpeace and the local environmental groups in Chelyabinsk which are concerned about the situation in Mayak. Today, the European Commission (EC) warned that the reprocessing plant in Mayak is at risk of a serious accident.

Interview by BBC News, EC head of Nuclear Safety, Derek Taylor said "There’s always the potential for another accident."

"More waste is being stored than they really have safe capacity to store," he said.

Back in 1992, the Bellona Foundation warned the world community about the high risks of accidents at Mayak, and the tremendous problems related to storage of radioactive waste in the Mayak area. A Bellona report pointed out the unsatisfactory situation at the nuclear dump lake Karatchay, the water reservoirs where liquid radioactive waste are stored and the earlier dumping of highly radioactive waste into the Tetcha River.