Whistleblower takes nuke plant to court

Publish date: November 21, 2000

Written by: Thomas Nilsen

Sergey Kharitonov said his working place, the spent nuclear fuel storage at Leningrad nuclear power plant, was unsafe. As a result he was sacked. Wednesday he meets his employer in court.

“There is a person – there is a problem, no person – no problem.” This is the way the local environmental group Green World in Sosnovy Bor outside St Petersburg describes the treatment Sergey Kharitonov got from his employer, the Leningrad nuclear power plant.

Kharitonov wrote a 1996 report about the violations of the safety rules at the spent nuclear fuel storage where he worked as an operator. The local watchdog group Green World, of which Kharitonov also is a member, published the report.

The report describes in detail the problem related to the overfilled storage for spent nuclear fuel from the four operating RBMK reactors.

The administration of Leningrad nuclear power plant tried to fire Kharitonov five times, they imposed penalties on him seven times, and after that partially deprived him of his wages. The illegal character of these actions were proved in court, and in 1998 he won a case against the nuclear power plant on compensation of moral damages. But he could not return to his position as an operator at the spent nuclear fuel storage.

From November 1997 till March 2000 Sergey Kharitonov was not permitted to perform his working duties, and had to spend all his working hours in the cloak-room at the spent nuclear fuel storage. On July 9th this year he was again officially sacked.

“The administration of the Leningrad nuclear power plant is attempting to get rid of a person who openly speaks about the violations of Russian legislation at this hazardous nuclear site and about the risks, not only for Russia, but for the entire Baltic region,” says Oleg Bodrov, chairman of the Green World, in a press release.

Wednesday court session starts at 10.30 a.m. A total of nine suits of Sergey Kharitonov vs. the director of the nuclear power plant, Valery Lebedev will be heard.

Kharitonov’s lawyer will be Ivan Pavlov from the Environmental Rights Centre in St Petersburg. Pavlov works in close relation with Bellona employee Aleksandr Nikitin, helping other environmentalists in Russia with legal cases.