The State Duma, lower house of the Russian parliament, will consider in the second reading the bills in favour of spent nuclear fuel import and leasing on February 22nd. Russian environmental groups – Ecodefence and Socio-Ecological Union – have released an update on the situation around the nuclear spent fuel import project.
Russian environmental groups and political parties are planning a mass rally on February 19th in the centre of Moscow. The rally will gather activists from across the country to protest against the plan of the Russian Ministry for Nuclear Energy, or Minatom, to import spent nuclear fuel from across the globe. The rally will demand from the Duma members to reject the bills.
The activists were supported by local parliaments in the Russian regions, which sent their protests to the Duma against the bills. On January 24th, the local legislative body in Novosibirsk sent an appeal to the Duma calling for rejecting the nuclear import bills. High-level nuclear officials, among them the director of Novosibirsk nuclear fuel producing plant and the manager of the storage for nuclear fuel in Krasnoyarsk-26, participated in the session but failed to convince Novosibirsk Duma to support the import of nuclear waste. The local Duma in Ekaterinburgh, Ural region, the third largest city in Russia, will send a request to the Russian Constitutional Court to examine the new laws submitted by Minatom. All in all, 21 Russian regions out of 89 protested against the bills.
Victor Mikhailov, former minister for nuclear energy in Russia, said that he was not in favour of the project. He criticised the present minister, Yevgeny Adamov, for pushing ahead the legislation allowing the import of spent nuclear fuel. Mikhailov said Russia is not prepared to manage such amount of spent fuel. Minatoms plans suggest importation of 20,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel.
On December 21, 2000 the Russian State Duma approved in the first reading bills calling for import of spent nuclear fuel. Before the bills enter force, they must be approved in the second and third readings by the Duma, then by the Federation Council, the upper chamber of the Russian parliament, and finally by the President. The bill can allow the nuclear industry of Russia to import spent nuclear fuel from other countries for reprocessing or up to 50 years of storage. Russian environmental groups assessed this initiative as an attempt to turn the country into an international nuclear dumpsite and started a nation-wide campaign to stop the project. Yabloko party, an opposition minority in the Duma dominated by Kremlin supporters, is strongly opposing the project and has joined the campaign.