Russian "nuclear dump" plans criticised

Atomic energy ministry plans to make US$10bn from disposal according to leaked document

Russia is negotiating to offer "world-wide services" for the final disposal of highly radioactive nuclear waste, according to a leaked document which Greenpeace made public this weekend. According to the group, the paper names Switzerland, Germany and Spain, among others, as potential Russian customers. The document also details a "special programme" developed for Germany, under which a redundant nuclear plant could be uprooted and resited in Russia.

According to Greenpeace, the undated document is one of several associated with a leaked "protocol of intentions" signed last September between Swiss nuclear utilities and the Russian atomic energy ministry, in which the parties made a "preliminary agreement" for Russia to dispose of up to 2,000 tonnes of Swiss waste (ENDS Daily 19 January).

It states that Russian ministers expect a sum of up to US$10bn (euros 8.6bn), "corresponding to approximately 10,000 tonnes of spent fuel," to be generated from disposal and other nuclear waste services on Russian territory. No details are given on any specific agreements concluded with the countries mentioned.

The document adds that, according to a representative of Germany's GKN nuclear utility, the so-called Siemens-Alkem facility, a mixed oxide fuel-producing plant, "is to be built in Russia," and the project "stands a fair chance of being approved" by the German authorities. The plant, which was closed down for safety reasons in 1991, would manufacture fuel for conventional nuclear plants from plutonium "leased" from Russia, the document suggests. Siemens has stated that transfer of the Alkem facility is "technically possible," but a spokesperson for GKN told ENDS Daily today that there had been "no negotiations" with Russia.

Greenpeace spokesperson Mike Townsley condemned the Alkem plans as "ecological dumping by any other name," and claimed that weak enforcement of environmental regulations and the current financial crisis posed an increased risk of radioactive leaks in the country.

The revelations come at a time when the German government has declared an end to nuclear reprocessing of German fuel, indicating that spent fuel currently in the UK and France will be brought back for final disposal.

Follow Up:
Greenpeace International, tel: +31 20 523 62 22; GKN, tel: +49 713 3130. References: The briefing paper which quotes the leaked document is at: http://www.greenpeace.org/~nuclear/waste/rusbrief.html.

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