Russia: dangerous games with nuclear pollution

It has been reported that Russia is to receive 20 bn. USD in return for making part of Siberia a dump for foreign nuclear waste. While Siberia’s vast steppes have enormous expanses of uninhabited areas, experts are expressing concern that such a policy could prove catastrophic. The Russian Atomic Energy Ministry states that if it can reprocess 10% of the 200,000 kg. of the world’s spent nuclear fuel, is could earn 20 bn. USD over the next ten to fifteen years. This money would finance the building of new nuclear power plants, reprocessing and storage facilities, environmental protection projects and payment of back taxes. However, fears are raised as to the environmental safety of this project. Professor Alexei Yablokov, President Yeltsin’s head of environmental affairs, stated that “It is the most polluting type of technology. We store the waste underground and then it ends up in the Arctic Ocean somewhere”. He accuses the Atomic Energy Ministry of wanting to make easy money. “The Ministry of Atomic Energy has always been a state within a state and people there dream of making fast and easy money”, he stated. It is a fact that the Russian Atomic Energy Ministry offers competitive market prices. Vladimir Kuznetsov, a former inspector of Russia’s state agency for nuclear safety, Gosatomnadzor, claims that “We are currently charging Ukrainians 400-450 USD per kilo for reprocessing nuclear waste, compared to 2.000 USD per kilo which France receives from Japan…part of the price that the Ukraine receives is in goods”. The British “Independent” newspaper reports the Russian nuclear technology to be “out-of-date” and the personnel to be “ill-trained”. While it is a fact that western press agencies love to print stories of environmental catastrophes in Russia, while keeping quiet about similar disasters at home, it has also been claimed that at Mayak, in the Ural mountains, the ground water is heavily polluted with radioactivity. It is difficult to form a coherent line of action on the environment when nuclear spills are happening. Although nuclear energy is cheap, it is also extremely dangerous. Mankind would be better off looking for alternative sources of energy which are less damaging to our planet. Until then, we have a collective price to pay for our energy, in more ways than one.


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