Nikitin trial is a signal

Publish date: November 29, 1999

Written by: Thomas Nilsen

"The outcome of the Nikitin trial will be a signal, either a bad one, but hopefully a good one," says the leader of a green group working with nuclear safety at Leningrad nuclear power plant.

“If Aleksandr Nikitin wins the trial here in St. Petersburg it will be a positive signal,” says Oleg Bodrov, leader of Green World. His organisation is based in the closed city of Sosnovy Bor, some 80 kilometres outside of St. Petersburg, where the Leningrad nuclear power station is located.

Bodrov follows the trial in the City Court with great interest. “If Nikitin loses the trial it will send a signal to the FSB that they can initiate similar cases against environmentalists,” he says. But Bodrov thinks Nikitin will win the case, because he hasn’t done anything wrong or violated any laws on state secrets.

Important for nuclear safety

“Openness and freedom of expression is important for all NGOs working with nuclear safety,” says Bodrov. “For us in Sosnovy Bor it’s especially important since we are only a few people in our group and the rest of the society in our city is pro-nuclear. The city administration and the Russian Ministry for Nuclear Energy (Minatom) wants to develop the city to an international centre for nuclear science.”

Old or new reactor

The Leningrad nuclear power plant operates the oldest RBMK reactors in Russia. The question now is if the two oldest ones will be closed down or get their lifetime prolonged by 15 years, as suggested by the plant’s operators. For Bodrov and his group this is a scaring scenario. But the alternative suggested by Minatom is not much better. If they are closed down the plans are to replace them with a new type of reactors moderated with graphite, called MKR-1000 reactors.

“The only major difference between the RBMK reactors and the new MKR reactors is that these reactors will have a containment preventing huge realises of radioactivity into the atmosphere in case of a fire or an uncontrolled chain reaction,” says Oleg Bodrov. If the new MKR reactors are to be built they will be placed in the same reactor hall as today’s RBMK reactors. In order to get the price down the plan suggests using the old turbines and other equipment from today’s reactors.

Decommissioning centre

Green World is scared by the plans to make Sosnovy Bor to an international nuclear development centre. “The result can be that the nuclear industry from all over the world comes to Sosnovy Bor to carry out experiments they can’t run in their own country because of safety risks,” says Bodrov.

“Instead of doing research on developing new reactors, we could do the opposite and make Sosnovy Bor to an international centre for developing technology for decommissioning of huge power reactors and safe handling of radioactive waste,” says Bodrov.