Deputy atomc minister warnes against declining social conditions

Publish date: April 10, 1997

Written by: Igor Kudrik

--The real danger does not come from the technical conditions of the Russian nuclear power plants, but rather from the constant arrears of salaries to the personnel who operates the installations, says Russian deputy minister of atomic energy Valery Bogdan. --As a consequence nuclear power plant operators are depressed and psychologically unstable.

The salaries to workers at Russian nuclear power plants are regularly delayed for 1-1,5 months. In 1996 nuclear power consumers covered only 1.87 percent of their 2.3 billion USD debts to "Rosenergoatom", the state controlled company which operates all nuclear power plants in Russia. By the beginning of 1997 the debts had increased by another 700 million USD.

As a consequence, a number of strikes hit Russian nuclear power plants last year. The criminal statistics among nuclear plants employees are increasing, while discipline has reached low levels.

According to available statistics, 70 % of the accidents on nuclear objects, including the Chernobyl accident, are due to human error. In the Navy, which operates most of the reactor installations, social conditions are far worse than at the civilian power plants. Submarine officers and workers at the naval repair yards, where salaries may be more than half a year in arrears, are neglecting their professional responsibilities while worrying about how to feed their families.

In Severodvinsk, where the situation is worse than ever, there has been several cases of nuclear terrorism threats from vengeful workers demanding payment. At the Polyarny yard on the Kola Peninsula, workers twice ran blockades last year, preventing recently repaired nuclear submarines from departing until overdue payments arrived from the Navy.