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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

A Plant Without Sugar?:

The Country Is Transforming Into a Nuclear Burial Ground

Krasnoyarsk `RT-2' Nuclear Waste Problems Described

Moscow MOSKOVSKIYE NOVOSTI , 10-17 Mar 96 No 10, p 17
by Aleksandr Bolsunovskiy, Biophysics Institute,
Siberian Department, Russian Academy of Sciences:

During his visit to RT-2 the president of the Russian Federation was categorical: "The plant has to be finished. And don't argue with the president." The result: Tons of radioactive wastes from the entire world are converging on Krasnoyarsk, but the plant's construction hasn't moved from square one. There's no money. The needed amount is around 12.5 trillion rubles. But the real amount of the outlays will grow by several times. This is because construction of RT-2 will unavoidably require construction of a fuel preparation plant, and a nuclear power station to use this fuel. In Great Britain, such a plant cost 3 billion pounds sterling. And the cost of a plant in France is not any lower. Considering the entire cycle of outlays on RT-2, in the foreseeable future Russia will be unable to find the needed money. The leadership of the Ministry of Atomic Energy suggests building the plant with prepayments from Western clients.

But the countries we are talking about are Ukraine, Moldova, Bulgaria, India, China, Kazakhstan and countries of the Near East. Russia is rendering an expensive foreign exchange service to these clients, but they insist on making their settlements by barter. As an example according to the most modest calculations Ukraine was supposed to pay R400 billion, but only 50 billion in "real" money was received. Kiev compensated for the balance by barter-- construction materials, government treasury bills and, of all things, sugar. But how are you going to build a plant with sugar? In the beginning the Ministry of Atomic Energy hoped for rich clients like Germany and Switzerland. But they refused to participate in the project, while negotiations with South Korea and Taiwan are in great question. Even if a wealthy client is found to pay for part of the construction (this might be Japan or the United States), RT-2 will be idling more often than working. For example the processing plant in Great Britain, which was built in part with money from Japanese firms, is idling. Germany's nuclear power stations also refuse to send their spent fuel for processing. The Germans are even ready to pay steep fines. The reason--the offered services are so expensive. Russia of course could get new clients if it offers additional services to them. For example, burying the wastes of others on its territory. And this is what is being done at Chelyabinsk-40 and is threatening Krasnoyarsk-26. But this is equivalent to transforming Russia into a giant burial ground for many hundreds of years. In the meantime Russia initially fell into debt owing to wastes imported from Finland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Ukraine. The declaration that all radioactive wastes of foreign nuclear power stations will be returned is almost unfulfillable. Thus, 450 tonnes of spent fuel from Ukraine containing around 5 tonnes of plutonium are stored at the site in Krasnoyarsk-26. In France, the supplying country is supposed to pay for every day of such "storage," while under Russian terms a single payment in goods or in credit suffices.

When we take account of the old age of the production operation, the long waiting line, and the fact that RT-2 is not finished yet, under these conditions leakage of plutonium is almost guaranteed. Considering that the land on which fuel is being stored and RT-2 is being built was already subjected to radioactive contamination, any added contamination harbors disaster. Even without construction of new, dangerous facilities, the state of the radioactive wastes is extremely serious today. No one can guarantee that an accident similar to the kind at Chelyabinsk or Chernobyl will not occur in Krasnoyarsk-26. The integrated works do need money, though not for construction of the RT- 2 plant, but to process old wastes.


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