Bellona presented its report in Moscow

Publish date: July 4, 2005

MOSCOW—The Bellona Foundation has presented its report “The Russian Nuclear Industry—The Need for Reform”.

The report presented at a Moscow press-conference is devoted to Russia’s nuclear policy, the structure and state of it’s nuclear industry.

The Bellona Foundation hopes that the report will provide necessary information for politicians, officials and specialists who take part in solving nuclear problems in Russia.

The authors of the report are Bellona staff members Alexander Nikitin, Igor Kudrik, Charles Digges and Nils Boehmer, as well as Vladimir Kuznetsov, the author of Green Cross nuclear safety programmes, and Vladislav Larin, a renowned ecologist and journalist and member of the NGO "Ecopress-centre". The Bellona delegation at the conference consisted of report co-authors Nikitin, Larin and Kusnetsov.

Officials from Rosatom were present at the conference.

"The aim of our report is to review the state of the Russian nuclear industry, its economy, as well as international programmes and projects in this field," Nikitin said.

"We are not just criticising atomic energy for the sake of criticising,” Nikitin added. “But we are against plans that we consider hazardous: the building of international nuclear repository in Russia, the construction of floating nuclear power stations and sending them to Asia. At the same time we welcome Rosatom’s decommissioning efforts and the first steps towards transparency in this field.

At the same time ecologists are concerned about closing the Public Counsel under Minatom.

“For three months I went to Minatom as if to work. The Council was designed to discuss key problems. But as the discussion became tense, the Council was shut down,” Kuznetsov said.

"You critisise the nuclear industry,” one of the journalists present at the conference said. “But could Russia do without it, given today’s high oil prices?”

Vladislav Larin answered this question: "The chapter ‘The Economy of Russia’s Nuclear Energy’ was written by me together with Vladimir Chuprov from Greenpeace Russia. Our investigation shows that whatever the oil prices they do not influence the cost of a nuclear kilowatt, as nobody – even Rosatom – does not know how much a nuclear kilowatt is in Russia today."

According to the co-authors of the report, such international programmes as the HEU-LEU programme — under which Russia converts weapons-grade uranium to low enriched uranium and sells it for use in US reactors — allows Rosatom to receive money without conducting necessary reforms.

“The financial streams are concealed and fill the coffers of certain people. Thus, a turbine of one of the power stations was privatised and the profit from it goes to a certain group. In other words, we see that the financing of the nuclear industry is inefficient and non-transparent, said Larin.

"There are too many problems, one of which is nuclear waste management. We can not go further until we solve them," Nikitin said.


The Red Report
The Bellona report presents a detailed survey of the state of today’s Russian nuclear industry, as well as offering some suggestions about increasing security measures and elimination of possible risks.

The analysis of the structure and technologies of the Russian nuclear industry made by independent experts revealed the most urgent issues. According to the authors, one of the key issues is the closed nuclear fuel cycle that Russia employs—that is taking spent nuclear fuel, reprocessing it and putting the separated uranium and reactor grade plutonium back into use. The inefficiency of such a system is proved by international practice, as it contributes to nuclear proliferation and poses a great danger to the environment, experts believe.

Despite the fact that Russian storage facilities are over-filled, the nuclear lobby keeps supporting nuclear waste import to the country.

The plans of nuclear waste import are related to the development of breeder reactors that work on plutonium received from the reprocessed spent fuel. There are also plans to build a new reprocessing plant "RT-2" in Krasnoyarsk.

Speaking about international co-operation, the authors of the report point out the lack of co-ordination and auditing structures, which allows the spending of western money without any control. Aside from that, the funds allocated on certain nuclear safety programmes often help Russia to maintain the Soviet-era status quo of its nuclear industry and offer no impetus for reform.

Thus, investment in the Russian nuclear industry under the HEU-LEU programme make up to $100,000 million annually. The final recipients of the money are Russian nuclear companies and plants that down-blend weapons-usable highly enriched uranium and make nuclear fuel for use in US reactors.

The recommendations suggested by the authors of the report include giving up the policy of the closed nuclear fuel cycle, creating an international accounting department and an international co-ordination group, open discussion of programmes and projects as well as fulfilling a "Master Plan" for nuclear remediation.

"Before the realisation of new ambitious plans of nuclear development, we should stop to think and estimate the real state of nuclear industry and it’s prospects, to eliminate the heritage of the past and find solutions to the fundamental problems, first of all – nuclear waste and spent fuel management," the authors say.