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REPORT "IMPORT OF NUCLEAR WASTE TO RUSSIA, 2001-2005", ECODEFENSE, MOSCOW 2005

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
#638
18/11/2005
Article

(November 18, 2005) The full report is currently only available in Russian - below is a translated summary of its conclusions.

More than four years ago Russian authorities approved new legislation that would allow the nuclear industry to import spent nuclear fuel. However, during that period, the industry failed to improve its financial situation and has also neglected to begin any programs for the rehabilitation of radioactively polluted territories. Both the facilities that store foreign spent nuclear fuel, Krasnoyarsk-26 and "Mayak", receive government subsidies covering over 50% of their operational costs.

Since the legislation for nuclear fuel import was introduced in June 2001, the Russian Federal Agency for Atomic Power (Rosatom, previously Minatom) has not managed to secure any new customers for its spent nuclear fuel services. Only the old customers, Ukraine and Bulgaria, continue to send relatively small quantities of nuclear waste to Russia, mostly for storage. At the same time, officials in Ukraine have repeatedly stated that they will stop sending spent fuel to Russia in the next few years.

Rosatom has received US$120 million for accepting foreign spent fuel. The total amount of fuel accepted from Ukraine and Bulgaria is nearly 300 tons, which is 66 times lower than the amount prediction by the industry in 2001. According to a 2001 Rosatom statement, Russia was projected to import 20,000t in a ten year-period, which equates to 2,000t per year.

Environmental groups are of key importance in preventing new contracts for spent fuel import. Rosatom tried to prevent public criticism by establishing a "public council" with leading environmental groups, but many refused the offer to "cooperation" and continued to criticize and oppose the industry. When Minatom (Ministry for Atomic Power) was re-established as Rosatom (Agency for Atomic Power) during an administrative reform of 2004, the "public council" was dissolved.

The present condition of spent nuclear fuel storages allows for approximately 1500t to be deposited while Russia's nuclear industry alone produces 800-850t per year.

The Russian nuclear industry has mostly focused on the storage of spent fuel, not on reprocessing it. Russia has only one reprocessing center, "Mayak", but it is unequipped to handle fuel from the majority of Russian reactors, which are of RBMK and VVER-1000 designs. Work on the construction of a new reprocessing plant, RT-2, Krasnoyarsk-26, is not expected to begin until 2020, if it ever will.

Contact: Ecodefense (WISE/NIRS Russia)