Krasnoyarsk Sees Lenin Protest Spent Nuclear Fuel Imports

Publish date: July 7, 2002

Written by: Charles Digges

Crowds gathered and some among them cheered as a coordinated pair of environmentalists scaled a statue of Lenin and climbed scaffolding on this city’s central administrative building to unfurl banners protesting the import of spent nuclear fuel (SNF) to the region.

The yellow banner with black letting that draped the city administration building read “Say No to the Import of Nuclear Waste.” The statue of Lenin — which according local residents is one of the last standing in a major Siberian city — was wrapped in a banner that said “What will be the cost of the people for spent nuclear fuel?

The banners were hung by Dr Sergei Avdeev, of Chelyabinsk and Oleg Podosyonov, of Yekaterinburg, who are experience mountain climbers.

The action lasted less than 45 minutes and involved no police intervention, said Vladimir Slivyak, co-chairman of the Russia-based Ecodefense!, one of the organizers of the protest, despite the presence of dozens of police officer — even though the action was not sanctioned by the local administration. Slivyak, in fact, said in an interview with Bellona Web after the banner-hanging that he and about15 activists waited 45 minutes for police to move in and arrest them, but they never did.

“We consider the action a success — no one was arrested or hurt and we go out message out to the people,” said Slivyak.

The environmentalists have been staying in a camp close the road to Zheleznogorsk — a closed city that houses one of Russia’s three remaining plutonium reactors and an incomplete reprocessing plant — for almost a week, where they have strung various anti-nuclear banners. Zheleznogorsk is also a favoured site for building a 20 tonne-capacity dry cask storage facility for spent nuclear fuel (SNF). The camp — which included tent-dwellers from more than 10 Russian cities — dispersed Saturday.

“We wanted to show that people from different cities can come together for an environmental protest like this — that we are not just isolated,” sad Slivyak.

“We also wanted to say to the people campaigning to replace the late Governor Alexander Lebed have to pay attention to this issue,” said Slivyak.

At present, Alexander Us, a deputy of Lebed’s — and who is considered the forerunner in the elections schedules to take place later this summer, is both fulfilling Lebed’s post as well as running for Lebed’s old office.

”Us is trying to duck the issue — public opinion is against the import and interment of SNF in the Krasnoyarsk region means big money for the nuclear industry, but he cannot talk about SNF for fear of loosing votes.

Us was not available for comment Friday, and refused to speak with journalists who came to his office. One of his secretaries said, in confidentially, that Us had seen the environmental banner — which flew on the administration building for about 45 minutes, because it “was blocking his view” of the city’s central square.

A host of other candidates for Lebed’s job have been similarly evasive on the question of nuclear imports, refusing in chorus to comment on the issue. None of them — including Anatoly Bykov, who was recently cleared of economic crimes but nonetheless campaigned from jail — were available for comment.


Why Krasnoyarsk?
Krasnoyarsk has been the site of a heated struggle between city officials, the federal government and environmentalists, the latter of whom want to force the question of SNF imports — both foreign and domestic — to a local referendum.

Last winter they very nearly succeeded in doing so by collecting the 40,000 signatures necessary to put the question to a popular vote in this region of 1.5 million residents. The local election commission threw out more than 35,000 of these collected signatures as invalid based on a federal law requiring signatories to sign not just their names, date of signing and passport information. Prior to that time, in February 2001, in Krasnoyarsk, name and date were sufficient.

On Monday, the Krasnoyarsk Regional Court handed down a decision saying that the referendum signatures were collected legally, under then-current legislation, but booted the question of what to do with the waste imports to Moscow. A number of local politicians from — like Sergei Besedin of the Union of Righteous Forces (SPS) as well as Greenpeace members Ivan Blokov and Maksim Shingarkin said they would appeal the decision to Moscow’s Supreme Court.

The litigants were pleased, however, that Judge Sergei Polentsev removed the ban on collecting local referendums, which was implied in the February verdict.

What Krasnoyarsk thinks
As passers-by stopped to read the slogan still dangling from the statue of Lenin — which had been slightly twisted by a light wind — all were wholly in support of the sentiment.

Olga Urayevskaya, 52, on her way home from work, said putting the question to a real referendum, “not one that will be manipulated by the authorities,” would put the question to rest. Why should our region have to live next not only domestic — which is our responsibility in the end — but foreign waste as well?”

Yelena Volodina, 19, who stopped to read the banner while walking across the square with her boyfriend Sergei Spirin, 25 said: “What will the cost be to us? I want my children to grow up here — how can I raise them near a harmful nuclear waste dump?” she said.

Spirin agreed: “We’re not just talking about one generation but hundred,” he said. “How can we leave that legacy to our children and theirs?”