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Russia: 36,000 signatures to prevent reactor construction

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
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(October 1, 2009) Northeast of Moscow) were handed to the Russian Presidents’ administration. The signatures were collected among the inhabitants of the 30km zone around the proposed construction site, in the towns of Murom and Navashin. Environmental and anti-nuclear activists are still subject of state harassment.

Prior to handing the signatures to the Presidents’ Administration, the environmentalists presented them to the media at the Independent Press-Center in Moscow. According to Vasily Vakhlyaev, member of the Murom City Council, the results of the public opinion poll indicate that 95% of the Murom residents strictly oppose the construction of the nuclear power plant.

Vladimir Slivyak of Ecodefense reported on numerous shortcomings of the Nizhny Novgorod nuclear power plant project. For instance, it is unclear what the plans are for nuclear waste treatment. According to the project documentation, spent nuclear fuel will be transported to a plant, which does not exist and is not planned to be built. Thus, high-level radioactive waste which will present danger for at least 240,000 years and for which there is no safe disposal technology, may remain in Nizhny Novgorod region forever. So, what is actually under discussion – a nuclear reactor or nuclear waste dumping site? It looks like both.

Well-known scientist and member of the Russian Academy of Science, Alexei Yablokov stated that a simple nationwide switch to energy-efficient light bulbs would save so much energy that new nuclear reactors will not be needed. He called for cancellation of the nuclear energy development program in Russia stating it as dangerous, expensive, and uneffective. At the press-conference Yablokov said nuclear energy has direct effect on sickness and death rates.

Earlier, on September 1, over 3,000 of Murom town’ residents took part in an anti-nuclear rally where both local authorities and activists of Ecodefense criticized the project of nuclear plant and urged local citizens to not be afraid to raise voices.

And on September 4, two activists, Vladimir Slivyak, who co-chairs Ecodefence, and the group’s nuclear physicist, Andrei Ozharovsky, on their way to a public hearing, were plucked from the crowd and detained by police at a local precinct. They were given no reason for their four hours detention.  “They simply held us until almost the end of the (public) hearings and let us go,” Slivyak told Bellona Web. Materials the two were carrying with them regarding nuclear energy were taken from them during their stay with the police, and after the rally was over, they were released and their literature returned.

The rally was in protest of ecological groups, other NGOs and other members of the public not being able to participate in open hearings on the construction of a nuclear power plant in the Nizhny Novgorod region.

Aside from representatives of Ecodefence, members of other environmental organisations – as well as members of the general public – were also turned away. The police had formed a well fortified barrier around the building were the hearings were to take place. Local residents who turned out to oppose the plant at the open hearings, were not able to pass through even the first police cordon. City officials from the town of Murom – which is 30 kilometres from the building site – were also turned away.

The Nizhny Novgorod Nuclear Power Plant is included in the  Russian government’s “General Scheme for the Construction of Electric Energy Installations Until 2020,” but is currently only at the review stage.

It is assumed that the first state of the nuclear station will consist of two reactor blocks. Each reactor will supply 1170 megawatts of power. The first is scheduled to come online in 2017, but a site for the plant has still not been chosen. Two are under consideration – the city of Uren, which is in the north part of the Region, or Monakovo, in the Navash district near Murom.

Exactly a year ago, on September 16, 2008, Russia’s economic crime unit and the Federal Security Service (FSB) raided the Nizhny Novgorod offices of the nationally known Russian environmental organization Dront. They confiscated financial documents, topographical maps and computers from Dront's biodiversity preservation laboratory. The office is accused of under-reporting on its tax return. But experience from earlier attacks on environmental organizations suggested that the real motives for the raid were not tax related, but rather because Dront is an extremely active organisation that is vocal in its opposition to a gamut of environmentally dangerous projects, that are close to the heart of the local administration and its business cronies. Dront is also very active and instrumental in the fight against the plans for new reactors.

Source: Press release Ecodefense, 22 September 2009 / Bellona Web, 18 September 2008 & 7 September 2009
Contact: Vladimir Slyviak, Ecodefense