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[cdn-nucl-l] Russia to dump radwaste in volcano
Posted on the Russian Bellona on April 2, 2002 and at:
This is interesting...
Russia to dump radwaste in volcano
(Moscow:) Atomic Minister Alexandr Rumyantsev announced that Russia
would be willing to except low active radioactive waste for permanent
burial on a seismically unstable volcanic island in Russia's far eastern
Kuril chain from Taiwan.
Simushir island is a part of the central group of the Kuril
Charles Digges, 2002-04-02 00:36
Speaking in Izvestiya Thursday, Rumyantsev casually said that Russia
would be willing to work with Japanese engineers to build on Simushir
Island - home to the active 1539 meter Milna volcano - a permanent
radioactive waste burial facility that would be capable of withstanding
the island's shifting and jarring earth. The volcano is one of several
such volcanoes on the island chain located off the northern coast of
Japan add south of Kamchatka
According to confidential Duma documents obtained by Vladimir Slivyak,
co-chairman of Moscow's Ecodefense!, the Taiwanese will supposedly be
paying the Russian government up to $10bn, including $2.5bn of
construction costs, to host its radioactive waste in this
seismologically volatile environment on a permanent basis. This
contradicts the law signed last year on nuclear imports to Russia that
stipulated that only spent nuclear fuel could be imported into the
country. Russian Nuclear Atomic Energy Ministry, or Minatom, argued that
spent nuclear fuel is a resource, which could be reprocessed and reused.
Waste generated during reprocessing could stay in Russia, given there is
no possibility to return them back. It appears that Minatom is starting
now to advocate for import of not only spent nuclear fuel but also
From spent fuel import to radioactive dumpsite
Simushir project prehistory
Sergey Shashurin, a Duma member from Tatarstan with a criminal record,
and Kurchatov Institute are cutting a radwaste deal with Taiwan...
Russia to become radwaste business land >
A more subtle revelation contained in the Rumyantsev interview - which
was buried in the Izvestiya interview's last paragraph - as well as the
documents obtained by Slivyak is this: Russia will accept radioactive
This is wholly inconsistent, say a host of environmentalists, with the
conditions surrounding the lifting of spent nuclear fuel import
restrictions last year, which stipulated that no radioactive waste, but
only spent nuclear fuel is legible for import.
"What Rumyantsev is doing here is entirely illegal," said Slivyak in a
telephone interview Friday.
"Aside from breaching the laws about protecting the environment - which
were breached by the lifting of the [nuclear spent fuel import] ban
anyway - Minatom is breaching its own self-tailored law allowing it to
import plane radioactive waste for permanent burial."
The leaked documents that Slivyak's associates showed Bellona Monday,
also allegedly reveal that Duma Deputy Sergei Shashurin was the
lynch-pin in arranging the nuclear waste deal with the Taiwanese nuclear
plant, which he supposedly achieved with the alleged cooperation of the
Taiwanese-Japanese company Asia Tat Trading Co Ltd. All were supposedly
cooperating with Moscow's Kurchatov Institute Nuclear Research Centre to
develop designs for the storage facility for the waste.
Despite three days of telephone calls, Shashurin neither returned
messages nor was available for comment. The Japanese Embassy, near whose
territory the waste will be located, declined comment.
Reached in Taipei, an Asia Tat Trading Co. Ltd official piquantly
referred all inquiries on the shipment to Minatom.
At the Sakhalin Oblast Administration - located eight time zones East of
Moscow and under whose jurisdiction Simushir Island falls - authorities
were surprised to hear about the project.
Simushir is an uninhabited island except for a periodically staffed
weather station, but one administration official, speaking on the
condition of anonymity, said, "It would have been appropriate of them to
inform us - we have heard nothing."
Minatom, in its turn, confirmed the deal, but urged the press steer
clear of the issue because the public and the media could not possibly
understand the implications of a nuclear waste dump on a volcanic,
earthquake-prone island in some of he Pacific Ocean's most fertile
"Society is far from informed on these matters and so is not prepared to
make any judgment on the issue but panicked gossip," said Minatom
spokesman Yury Bespalko in a telephone interview Monday.
"These are top people - Russian and Japanese teams - working to assure
the safety of this endeavour. The Japanese have experience with storing
waste under favourable seismological circumstances. But we are building
more than a metro tunnel here, so it will be beyond the grasp of most
When asked whether a contravention of the law on permanent storage of
foreign nuclear waste was afoot, he responded: "That is for judiciary
bodies to decide."
At the Kurchatov Institute, which, according to Slivyak's research, was
contracted to help design the storage containers, press officer Andei
Gagarinsky at first denied the institute had any hand in the container
designs, and called what Rumyantsev said in Izvestiya a "typical
journalistic red herring."
Later in the interview, Gagarinsky backed off slightly, and admitted
that designs for permanent waste storage in the Kuril Island chain had
been considered. When asked if those plans are materializing, he said
"The Kurchatov Institute supports the notion of a permanent waste
storage facility - be it somewhere else in Russia or in the Kuril
He refused further comment.
Regulator's waning role
For all the institutions allegedly privy to this deal, one is
conspicuously absent - Gosatomnadzor, or GAN, Russia's nuclear
regulatory body, which under the import law is to be informed of
shipments. It is GAN's responsibility, much like a customs house, to
license these imports.
When contacted by telephone on Friday regarding the Taiwanese waste
shipment to Simushir, GAN's deputy director, Alexander Dmitriev, was
taken entirely off-guard.
"Rumyantsev said what?" Dmitriev asked when told of the news. "We know
absolutely nothing about this."
Obviously taken aback, Dmitriev guided a room full of colleagues to find
the copy of the Izvestiya that contained the Rumyantsev's comments. When
it was finally located, the line went silent as Dmitriev read the
"I am the deputy director of Gosatomnadzor and should have known about
this," he said, his colleagues chattering nervously in the background.
"I don't know what sort of nonsense they are up to [at Minatom], but we
will have no further comment on this rubbish until we see official
notification," he said.
Slivyak, with his cadged Duma documents on the waste transfer, may or
may not be official enough for Dmitriev, but the fact that remains is
that the input of the deputy director of GAN matters less and less to
the consolidated lobby of Minatom. This state agency would make all
decisions about nuclear issues in Russia, including those about safety,
said Green World's Sergei Kharitonov, a former nuclear power plant
worker turned whistle-blower.
On paper, the 2001 law governing the import of spent nuclear fuel from
other countries is clear on the point that no radioactive waste will be
shipped into the country for permanent storage. But the law has been
abused and outright ignored by Minatom a number of times - even before
it was signed into force.
This slap-dash approach by his ministry was not a point that seemed to
concern Rumyantsev in his Izvestiya interview, where he didn't make
reference to the import law once - instead taking a snipe at the "greens
for pestering [him]" about his decisions.
Among other radioactive shipments were the cases of a Bulgarian and a
Hungarian load spent nuclear fuel. The Bulgarians shipped spent nuclear
fuel into Russia in autumn 2001 after the Russian President signed the
importation laws. Neither environmental impact study, stipulated by the
spent fuel import law, nor the personal control of President Putin, as
it was promised, were in place.
In a similar deal, the Hungarian Paks Nuclear Power Plant sent spent
nuclear fuel to Russia backed by a governmental decree, issued in 1998,
which allowed as an exception storing in Russia spent nuclear fuel (SNF)
from the plant.
As a result, environmental groups of Chelyabinsk - the southern Urals
city where Mayak is located - as well as the environmental group
"Greenpeace" filed suit with the Russian Supreme Court on the basis that
the legislation at the time the decree was issued prohibited importation
of radioactive waste. The current legislation, although allowing import
of spent nuclear fuel, declares the "priority [for Russia] of the right
to return the radioactive waste, generated after the reprocessing [of
SNF] into the country of its origin."
The court agreed with the plaintiff, but the Federal Government
intervened with an appeal - which according to a spokesman for the
Supreme Court, reached by telephone Monday, "could delay the case for
months." The spokesman did not know, however, if the Hungarian plant
would be able to continue its imports pending a decision on its appeal.
Chelyabinsk environmentalists vs Russian government - victory
2001-10-22 Spent fuel imports
Minatom forgets to inform President about spent fuel import
2001-09-04 Spent fuel imports
Bulgaria negotiates spent fuel transport to Russia