New reason for withholding information: offending a lawmaker

The original communique sent to Bellona Web by Vladimir Grachev accusing the site of "misinterpreting" his committee's resolution.
Rashid Alimov/Bellona

Publish date: February 22, 2006

Written by: Vera Ponomareva

Despite the chairman of the State Duma Environmental Committee Vladimir Grachev’s accusations toward Bellona Web of “misinterpreting” a resolution made by his committee that calls for slashing spent nuclear fuel (SNF) reprocessing at the Mayak facility, he and his staff continue to stonewall by refusing to provide reporters with a full copy of the resolution.

Information in the initial article was obtained through a press release issued by his committee, and Grachev’s continued refusals to provide Bellona Web a full version of the resolution make it impossible to corroborate the supposed misinterpretations that have irritated the committee chairman to the point of slamming down the telephone on Bellona Web when further requests for the document were made.

In the absence of any official information refuting the article “Duma committee votes to slash reprocessing—while Rosatom gets read to take on more,” Bellona Web’s editors stand by the original story published here on February 13th.

The article reported on a resolution of the State Duma’s Environmental Committee in which lawmakers called for Rosatom to minimize SNF reprocessing at the Mayak facility. After reading the article, Grachev contacted Bellona Web and expressed dissatisfaction both with its general tone and with some of the details, complaining that the resolution was presented in an unfavourable light. His precise words were that the resolution was presented as a “shabby subtext.”

Grachev also considered offensive the assertion that lawmakers stopped short of calling for Mayak’s license to be revoked, saying that this creates an “unworthy interpretation” of the committee’s resolution.

“Whether the license remains or not is not for us to decide. This is decided by state oversight body Rostekhnadzor,” he said.

However, Bellona Web had solid grounds for including this section on depriving Mayak of its licence because the draft resolution included this proposal, which we reported in the February 9th article “Duma demands an end to nuclear reprocessing at Mayak.”

Ground for a correction?
Grachev also attempted cleared up one detail: The deputies recommended that the raft of measures to protect the local population be implemented not by the Emergency Situations Ministry and the Chelyabinsk Region administration, but by the Russian Government.

Bellona Web thanks Vladimir Grachev for contacting its editors, and is pleased to give him the opportunity to present his position. However, it should be on the record that it was the Emergency Situations Ministry and the Chelyabinsk Region administration that were mentioned in the press release circulated by Grachev’s Environmental Committee following the adoption of the resolution.

Thus, the supposed discrepancy between the text of the press release—which Bellona Web reported from and which Grachev said included the committee’s final resolution—and the final text of the resolution, which unfortunately was not made available to our correspondent, cannot be independently established by Bellona Web journalists.

“I spoke with Grachev, and he said that the press release would be enough for you,” a committee official told Bellona Web, guaranteeing the disparity in interpretation.

Bellona Web has been unable to establish whether the text of the adopted resolution is classified information, as it Bellona Web’scontinued attempts to obtain a copy have been unsuccessful. It seems, though, that the information has been withheld from Bellona Web took Grachev took offence at the article, and not for any formal reasons.

Rosatom planning VVER-1000 fuel reprocessing at Mayak
Bellona Web also notes that more important information given by Grachev in an interview and included in the offending article has not been refuted. In particular, Grachev has not denied that Rosatom is planning to process another type of fuel—from VVER-1000 reactors—at Mayak.
““Rosatom was planning to increase reprocessing at Mayak, and had already bought equipment to break up fuel rods from these reactors and prepare it for reprocessing,” Grachev said in the interview.

Bellona web has obtained confirmation of this from Rosatom as well.

Igor Konyshev, an advisor to Rosatom head Sergei Kirenko, said Rosatom “has carried out research and preparatory work” in order to reprocess VVER-1000 fuel.

“The modernization of Mayak has been going on for some years,” Nikolai Shingarev, director of Rosatom’s Information and Exhibitions Centre, told Bellona web. “This involves replacing technological equipment, changing technologies, and so on—a raft of technological measures.”

This was the first time that Rosatom’s plans to reprocess VVER-1000 fuel at Mayak had been made public. Currently, fuel from these reactors, which are deployed at three NPP’s, is not reprocessed but sent for storage at the Krasnoyarsk Mining and Chemical Combine’s RT-2 facility in central Siberia.

Mayak’s RT-1 facility currently reprocesses spent fuel from VVER-440, BN-350, and BN-600 reactors, as well as naval reactors and some research reactors. Some 120 tonnes of SNF is reprocessed annually at Mayak, though the facility has a theoretical annual capacity of 400 tonnes.

As for the Environmental Committee’s call to reduce SNF reprocessing, it seems that Rosatom remains doubtful as to the efficacy of this step. According to Konyshev, Mayak is already reprocessing a minimal amount of fuel.

“I can say that the resolution of the Environmental Committee was implemented long ago, and everything being reprocessed there is minimized as much as possible,” Konyshev said. “The State Duma is simply reporting things that have already been carried out.”

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