Russian N-waste: Injections into the ground continue

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(December 19, 1997) Two years ago Russia admitted it was pumping liquid nuclear waste directly into the ground. Currently the US pays Russia about a half billion dollar a year for helping solve the waste problems of the nuclear weapon complex and prevention of proliferation of N-weapons. But nothing of the US aid is used to halt the dumping of high-level waste.

(483/4.4806) WISE Amsterdam -Nuclear scientist Bohmer from the Norwegian Bellona foundation says the Russians are still injecting nuclear waste at Tomsk and Krasnoyarsk, former nuclear weapon production complexes. An official of Minatom, the Russian Ministry of Atomic Energy, visiting a conference in Pridonice near Prague (Czech Republic), confirmed this practice was still going on. That is at least what some visitors of the conference said; they asked to stay anonymous, afraid as they are that the Russian visitors might be less open to them in the future.

At Tomsk-7, about 1.1 billion curies of radioactivity have been pumped into the ground so far, at Krasnoyarsk-26 about 700 million curies were released, at depths of 280-460 meters. Both sites are in Siberia near rivers which flow towards the Arctic Ocean. US experts like Henry Kendall of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) expect that groundwater flows will bring the waste back to the surface. More serious even might be the situation at a third less well- known site, Dimitrovgrad (Ulianovsk region). The wastes could migrate into the nearby Volga river, along which many cities are. Contaminated groundwater moved faster than was thought before, so the population will be endangered. Large amounts of radioactive waste are still being dumped into the already most radioactive lake of the world, Lake Karachay near Chelyabinsk- 65, which had 700,000 curies in 1995.

Most of the US money, US$300 million in 1997, is spent on eliminating or preventing the proliferation of mass destructi- on weapons. There is no legal hurdle to use the rest of it, US$230 million, for environmental projects, but it actually goes to the protection and control of bomb-grade materials and at keeping former nuclear scientists busy. The US Congress will probably not fund Russian environmental programs because they don't benefit the US.

Source: Scientific American, December 1997
Contact: Bellona Foundation, P.O. Box 2141 Grünerlokka, N-0505 Oslo, Norway
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