MinAtom Hints at British Deal

Publish date: April 11, 2002

Written by: Charles Digges

Russia's nuclear energy minister says British spent nuclear fuel may be imported to Russia.

Russia’s nuclear power minister hinted broadly that he intends to sign off on a deal early next year allowing the import of high-level nuclear waste, or spent nuclear fuel, from an unspecified atomic research facility in Great Britain, environmentalists and ministry officials said Thursday.

According to Vladimir Slivyak, co-chairman of Ecodefense, who was present at a Wednesday meeting with Nuclear Power Minister Aleksandr Rumyantsev, the ministry, known as MinAtom, intends next year to sign a contract giving a British nuclear research facility rights to import high-level, spent nuclear fuel, including plutonium, to Russia for reprocessing.

Rumyantsev would neither specify the amount of fuel that would be imported, the price Britain would pay Russia to accept the waste, nor what plant in Britain the waste would originate from. In a telephone interview Thursday, Slivyak speculated that the waste may be coming from Britain’s recently closed Dounrey facility in Scotland, though Rumyantsev would not confirm this. Press officials at the British Embassy in Moscow likewise declined comment on the spent fuel’s origins.

Ironically, Britain, along with France, are two of Russia’s biggest competitors in the nuclear fuel reprocessing market ever since Russia controversially legalized its own import practices last year. That Britain would then turn to Russia with a proposal to reprocess its own high level waste is proof that reprocessing is a “financial and environmental dead end,” said Slivyak.