New radwaste storage in Krasnoyarsk

Publish date: November 5, 2001

Written by: Rashid Alimov

Minatom confirms that radwaste from spent fuel reprocessing will be stored near Krasnoyarsk.

In the turn of October, press service of the Ministry for Nuclear Energy (Minatom) commented on the information, published by the Ecodefence! environmental group. The group says spent nuclear fuel storage site is under construction 30 kilometres from Krasnoyarsk-26 (Zheleznogorsk).

Minatom’s statement begins with the words “the mentioned information is false”, but the statement itself actually confirms that the construction is underway.

Ministry’s answer to the environmentalists says that not spent nuclear fuel, but radioactive waste, including long-lived fission products and actinide elements. The actinide elements refer to a range of isotopes, including plutonium and uranium. The waste will come from reprocessing of spent nuclear at RT-2 plant, which is currently under construction in Krasnoyarsk-26.

In Ecodefence’s view, such phrases are used only to draw a veil over the dumping foreign nuclear waste in Russia.

“Minatom’s disclaimer only proved our correctness,” the Ecodefence! co-chairman Vladimir Slivyak says. “In fact, Minatom misleads Russian citizens, while naming a dump site a “long-term storage site.”

Governor’s appeal
Early in October, the Kemerovo county governor Aman Tuleev appealed to the Russian prime minister Mikhail Kasyanov to make public the data, pertaining to building of the storage site.

In his view, new information proves, that despite Minatom’s assurances, spent nuclear fuel would be imported to Siberia not for reprocessing with return of the waste products, but for eternal dumping. “Siberia is going to become a dump site for foreign nuclear waste, causing problems for environment and human health. The issues of transportation and dumping of spent nuclear fuel have not been solved so far,” Tuleev’s says in the appeal.

The bills, favouring spent nuclear fuel imports to Russia for storage and reprocessing were signed by the President after parliament’s approval, despite negative attitude of 90% Russian citizens as polls show.

The Minatom officials persuaded MPs to legalize imports of foreign spent fuel, referring to the two advantages. Firstly, spent fuel will be reprocessed, not reposited. And secondly, the imports would bring $20bn, at the price of $1000 for one kilo. Today as the bills are approved, Minatom admits that storage term may be much longer than said earlier – it may last for thousands of years. At the same time, the first import of spent nuclear fuel from Bulgaria is being carried out now at the price of $620 per kilo.

Tonnes of radwaste
Spent nuclear fuel is to be brought into the country, despite the tonnes of domestic radioactive waste being accumulated.

Environmental situation around Russian nuclear industry plants remains difficult, and Minatom’s representatives have to admit that. For example, an article by V.Rybachenkov published in the Nuclear Control magazine No.4, in which the author favours spent fuel imports, but also has some doubts: “Russia is facing a great number of tasks in this field [of nuclear environmental safety]. According to some Western experts, only three Russian nuclear plants in Chelyabinsk-65, Tomsk-7 and Krasnoyarsk-26, have produced more than 95% of all the radioactive waste found in the world. Those wastes are dumped on the surface and into the underground water systems.”