GAN says Tomsk reactors should be shut-down

Publish date: July 14, 1998

Written by: Thomas Nilsen

The State Nuclear Control Gosatomnadzor (GAN) is awaiting the adoption by the State Duma of amendments to the legislation that will make it possible to demand the shut-down of the remaining two reactors in Seversk (Tomsk-7). The two military RBMK-type reactors are considered to be the most dangerous operating reactors in Russia.

The continued operation of two industrial reactors at Seversk is fraught with the danger of "an accident of the Chernobyl type" to the Tomsk region, said Yuri Vishnevsky, head of Gosatomnadzor, at a news conference in Moscow on July 13. According to Vishnevsky, the reactors have already twice exceeded their service life and the safety risks in operating them are rather obvious.

Originally five reactors at the Siberian Chemical Combine in Seversk (former Tomsk-7) produced weapons grade material. The two reactors that remain in operation (AD-4 and AD-5) started up in 1965 and 1967 respectively. They are duel-purpose reactors, which produce heat and electricity as well as plutonium. The cooling water is used to heat the city of Seversk and parts of the neighboring city of Tomsk.

Gosatomnadzor hopes that the new amendments to the legislation will make it possible demand to stop the reactors with the aid of the Prosecutor’s office in Moscow.

In strict contradiction to the demands from Gosatomnadzor, the U.S. CTR program is funding a project aimed at converting the reactors in Seversk from plutonium to only heat or electricity production. Converting to a different fuel composition in these RBMK reactors will cause the production of weapons-grade plutonium to cease, but the project will not improve the reactor safety itself. The reactor modification is planned to be completed by 2001.