Nuclear waste import postponed

Publish date: February 22, 2001

The Russian State Duma has postponed the second reading of the nuclear fuel import bills earlier scheduled for February 22nd. The new date is set for March 22nd.

The second reading of the nuclear fuel import bills did not take place in the Russian State Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament, on February 22nd. It is postponed until March 22nd after the increased activity of the greens protesting against the amendments.

Several actions organised by greens preceded this decision in Russia. On February 19th, Russian environmental activists from Socio-Ecological Union, Ecodefense and liberal Yabloko party held a rally outside the State Duma. About 300 activists from various environmental organisations took part in the action. 20,000 signatures against the nuclear bills were handed over to Grigory Yavlinsky, head of Yabloko party, who will later pass them over to the Russian President. The Russian Nuclear Ministry needs these bills put in force to allow spent nuclear fuel import to Russia. The greens and some politicians believe this plan will damage environment and expenses for the waste management will be much higher than the predicted profit.

On February 19th, the Environmental Committee of the Russian State Duma examined the amendments to the nuclear import bills initiated by the deputies from different factions. The amendments mainly concerned effective financial control for each nuclear delivery to Russia, guarantees for returning the nuclear waste to the country of origin. Only one amendment was approved, however, regarding the necessary approval of each contract for nuclear delivery by the State Duma.

On the same day, Ecodefense group released documents saying that the US Department of Energy has plans to deliver spent nuclear fuel from Taiwan to Krasnoyarsk in Siberia for final disposal. Shipment of 8,000 tons is scheduled to begin in 2007.

On December 21st 2000, the Russian State Duma approved in the first reading bills calling for import of spent nuclear fuel. After that more than 40 protests took place in the various Russian cities. The activists were supported by local parliaments in the Russian

regions, which sent their protests to the Duma against the bills. In autumn 2000, the polls showed that 93.5% of the Russians are against nuclear import.

“In such situation the legislators should not postpone the reading but rather cancel it,” Vladimir Slivyak, co-chairman of Ecodefense group, said.

“Some regions consider to call back their deputies [from the State Duma] who voted in favour of the nuclear import,” he added.

Before the bills enter force, they must be approved in the second and third readings in the Duma, then by the Federation Council, the upper chamber of the Russian parliament, and finally by the President. The bills 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 the Kremlin supporters, is strongly opposing the project and has joined the campaign.