Russia open for nuclear waste import

Putin signerte atomimport.
Foto: Thomas Nilsen

Publish date: July 11, 2001

Written by: Igor Kudrik

President Putin signed the bills, which remove legal roadblocks for spent nuclear fuel imports. Removing the public opposition will be much harder.

President Putin signed two bills amending the current legislation in favour of spent nuclear fuel import to Russia and leasing Russia’s manufactured fuel abroad. He also signed a law On Environmental Programs, which stipulates spending of the funds earned on spent fuel imports.

To calm down the strong public opposition to the project among ordinary population, Putin said he would control each particular importation deal himself. Russian President also established a commission to carry out control over the importation, comprised of State Duma members, Federation Council members, and president’s representatives. The commission will be headed by academician Zhores Alferov, a winner of the Nobel prize.

The flow of spent nuclear fuel into Russia is unlikely to start soon, however. Minatom’s planning of the project was criticised by many for the lack of proper planning both on technical, political and economical level.

Minatom has not concluded a single contract so far. The traditional exporters of spent nuclear fuel to Russia, such as the Eastern European countries, which operate Soviet design reactors, will not be able to bring Minatrom the promised $20 billion profit. While in order to take spent fuel from Asian countries, Minatom will need a permission from the US administration. Such permission can be granted given that Minatom, among other things, stops nuclear cooperation with Iran and other rogue nations. Minatom has so far been unwilling to bow to such demands.

New national vote
According to various polls conducted in Russia, 70% to 90% of the population are against importation of spent nuclear fuel. Russian environmental groups collected around 2.5 million signatures last year in support for the national vote. In consent with the Russian legislation, two million signatures collected in 60 different regions are enough to initiate a national vote. But the Central Electoral Committee, which was verifying the signatures, said almost 600,000 were not valid and banned the referendum.

The liberal opposition in the State Duma, Yabloko party, said after the Duma approved the amendments in third reading that they would initiate another referendum. Kremlin’s unofficial web site, Strana.Ru, quoted a source in the administration saying that they took the referendum threats seriously and would rather try to find a compromise with Yabloko, than waiting for the people to cast their vote. The deal, however, have not been worked out yet as it follows from what the source said.