Duma approves spent nuclear fuel import bills

The State Duma, lower house of the Russian parliament, voted for amendments to the Law on Environmental Protection in favour of spent nuclear fuel imports in the second reading on Wednesday. The Duma also approved in the second reading amendments to the Law on Application of Nuclear Energy opening the way for Russia to lease nuclear fuel to other countries.

230 Duma members voted for the amendments, 116 cast their votes against, while 5 sustained. 226 votes were necessary for the amendments to pass. During the first reading 320 Duma members were in favour of the amendments. The most part of those who voted against represented the Yabloko and Union of Righteous forces factions in the parliament. Leader of liberal Yabloko party, Grigory Yavlinsky, said to press, he would fight to the end against nuclear bills approval in the third reading.

According to the scheme developed by Minatom, Russia may earn up to $20 billion in 10 coming years by taking into the country around 20,000 tons of foreign spent nuclear fuel. Russia’s own spent nuclear fuel stock is estimated at 14,000 tons.

Minatom says that around $7 billion will be used on recovering the radioactively contaminated areas. The rest of the funds will be spent on building up the infrastructure and on payments to the federal government. Minatom’s intentions regarding the fuel are uncertain. The known plans, however, suggest that the fuel will be stored for at least 50 years and then reprocessed to extract the raw material to manufacture fresh nuclear fuel.

Minatom’s new head, Alexander Rumyantsev, said the project would help Russian nuclear industry survive. Minatom’s current major hard currency income comes from highly enriched uranium sales to the USA. But the new American administration considers amending the deal, thus depriving Minatom of almost 70% dollar profit. The spent fuel import project may compensate the losses, at least for the coming 10 years.

Now the amendments will have to pass the third reading in the Duma. Then the Federation Council, the upper chamber of the Russian parliament, will evaluate them as well. The final judgement will come from the Russian President.