New statute on the Russian State Nuclear Regulatory to come shortly

GAN’s press spokesman confirmed to Bellona Web, that a draft statute was considered by the government at the session on April 11th. But they could not explain, why does the government need a new statute, and whether GAN’s authorities would be extended or limited in the new version. Meanwhile, there are some causes for anxiety.

Rumours about hearings
Nuclear lobby has long wished to limit the authority of GAN. The reasoning of Ministry for Nuclear Energy, Minatom, in favour of the amendments is very simple: if the ministry is “the federal executive body, responsible for creating and functioning of the system”, a bulk of control functions must be transferred to the ministry.

In other words, Minatom wants to control itself. And to “work out documents, regulating safe order of handling radioactive materials and wastes.” Such aspirations maybe easily seemed, for example, in the document Fundamentals of Environmental Policy of Russia’s Minatom published last year.

Another ground for concern is that last year four MPs — Nigmatulin, Klimov, Koretnikov and Lukyanov — presented a draft bill On Licensing of Nuclear Industry Sites. This bill stipulated that GAN’s authority to licence sites of nuclear industry would be transferred to Minatom. Hearings in the State Duma, lower house of the Russian parliament, were under planning, but at the time present two of the MPs, who proposed the draft, called back their signatures. There is also a negative cabinet conclusion on the draft.

Sergey Scherbakov, the head of the GAN’s department responsible for State Duma contacts, said to Bellona Web, that no Duma hearings are to be held on this draft. This bill will be discussed in May only at the Energy Committee of the State Duma, and there the Nigmatulin-Klimov bill will likely be buried. At least, that is how GAN expects the events to happen.

But will MP Nigmatulin abandon his fight to make nuclear industry uncontrolled? That is very unlikely. MP Nigmatulin is a brother of the deputy minister for nuclear energy and represents nuclear lobby in the Duma.

The story of transferring functions of licensing to Minatom has been unfolding since 1999-2000. In the year 1999, a part of such functions was taken away from GAN by governmental decree no. 1007, signed by the then prime minister Vladimir Putin. This decree stripped GAN of licensing “the use of radioactive materials in application of nuclear energy in defence, including design, production, tests, transportation, exploitation, storage, destruction and decommissioning of nuclear weapon and military nuclear reactors.” In other words, this decree removed GAN from any involvement into the nuclear submarines decommissioning process, which presents the greatest problem to the Russian Northern and Pacific Fleets. This decree has also apparently taken GAN off the plutonium producing reactors in Seversk and Zheleznogorsk, western Siberia.

Full transfer of licensing functions to Minatom would violate Russia’s international obligations. All the nuclear safety assistance programs, in particular, carried out by the European Union (such as TACIS), stipulate involvement of GAN. Many EU programs support GAN directly.

In march 2002, Norwegian parliament accepted Bellona’s recommendations on the Norwegian nuclear safety assistance programs in Russia. These recommendations stipulate among other things that GAN’s participation in such programs must be obligatory, and that GAN should have the right to evaluate all such programs before, under, and after their implementation.