Construction of plutonium storage site continues despite of review: Mayak goes its way

Publish date: April 16, 1998

Written by: Igor Kudrik

Construction at a U.S.-Russian facility to store radioactive material from dismantled nuclear warheads in the Urals continued April 15 despite a government order to halt work until an environmental review is finished, reported The Moscow Times.

Worried that the $250 million storage facility at Mayak nuclear complex being built in the Chelyabinsk region with Russian and U.S. funds is in violation of Russian environmental laws, inspectors from the State Committee on the Environment on March 27 ordered a halt to construction by April 15, pending the review of technical documentation by experts. The order was ignored and the construction proceeded as planned, reported The Moscow Times.

In an interview with The Moscow Times, the officials at Mayak said they submitted the documentation at the environmental committee last week, and let the April 15 deadline pass in hopes that envirocommittee officials would lift the order.

On another tack, inspectors at the envirocommittee said construction must be halted unless committees chairman Viktor Danilov-Danilyan rules that Mayak has submitted the proper documents for review and lifts the sanctions, wrote The Moscow Times.

The envirocommittee’s local representative said he was going to inspect the construction site this week, and in case the works are not halted he would apply sanctions against the Mayak officials, such as fining them for $270.

Mayak goes its way
In January 1997, the vitrification facility for high level liquid wastes at Mayak reprocessing facility in Siberia was taken out of operation. The facility was 2,5 years past its operational limits when closed down. Based on this, Gosatomnadzor – the civilian Russian nuclear inspection – suspended the reprocessing plant’s license to operate. According to Gosatomnadzor, the license was based on the condition that high level liquid radioactive waste generated through the reprocessing process is glassified. As long as this condition is not fulfilled, operation of the plant is prohibited.

By autumn last year Mayak resumed reprocessing, having obtained an "intermediate operating license" from GAN.

GAN official in Moscow, who preferred to be unnamed, said in an interview with Bellona WEB, that nuclear inspectors were forced by Ministry for Atomic Energy (Minatom) to give back the reprocessing licence to Mayak.

Frankly speaking, if we have followed all the nuclear safety regulations by the book, we would have closed down all the nuclear facilities in Russia, – stated GAN’s official.