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Russia: 2.6 million sign petition against import of nuclear waste

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Booklet: Nuclear Energy a dead end

About sixty environmental groups across Russia, including Greenpeace and WWF, have collected 2.6 million signatures in a petition calling for Russia not to import nuclear waste.

(538.5219) WISE Amsterdam - The Russian Duma is expected to decide in December whether or not to revoke the existing law which prohibits final storage of foreign nuclear waste. According to the current law, nuclear waste can only be imported for reprocessing. Once it is reprocessed, it must be returned to the country of origin. However, politicians have seen the final storage of nuclear waste as a possible money-spinner for Russia, which could help to solve the economic crisis. First Deputy Atomic Minister Valentin Ivanov has said that Russia could reap at least US$20 billion in the next ten years if it signs and fulfils contracts for importing nuclear waste from abroad.

Despite the current law, a delegation from the Bulgarian State Energy Agency has been told that nuclear waste from Kozloduy nuclear power plant will remain in Russia after reprocessing, and will not be returned to Bulgaria. Also, WISE Kaliningrad has obtained information of a deal about Taiwan's nuclear waste, which would also be illegal under current law (see Taiwan article in this issue).

In order to stop or reverse any change in the law, about sixty Russian environmental groups have obtained 2.6 million signatures on a petition demanding a referendum on the issue. Under the Russian constitution, when presented with a petition of 2 million signatures or more, the Russian president must set a date between 2 and 4 months for a national referendum. If he chooses not to call a referendum the matter is transferred to the Constitutional Court, which has 30 days to accept or reject the President's decision.

Russia has had enough problems storing its own nuclear waste. Around 70% of Russia's nuclear waste is stored at the Mayak reprocessing plant, near Chelyabinsk in the southern Urals, which the European Commission has criticized as unsafe (see WISE News Communique 535: "In brief"). The explosion of a tank of liquid radioactive waste at the same complex in 1957 caused an accident said to be second only to Chernobyl in magnitude.


  • Greenpeace press release, 24 October 2000
  • email from WISE Kaliningrad, 30 October 2000
  • CDI Russia Weekly, 3 November 2000; Reuters, 24 October 2000
  • WISE News Communique articles 505.4977: "International nuclear waste storage in Russia?"
  • and 517.5079: "Minatom fails to persuade government to allow spent fuel imports".

Contact: WISE Kaliningrad,