Russia to become testing ground for world plutonium industry

Russia is set to become a testing ground for the world plutonium industry, according to the environmental group Ecodefense. As reported by a Rosbalt correspondent, the group's head, Vladimir Sliviak, said that at one of Russia's most dangerous atomic energy stations, Beloyarsk, in the Sverdlovsk region, construction has resumed of a fourth fast neutron reactor. The reactor will be at a minimum 1.5 to 2 times more expensive than former Russian reactors, which is why the Russian constructors are seeking foreign investors for the project.

According to representatives of the concern Rosenergatom, Japan and China are prepared to participate in the project, and discussions with them are ongoing. The cost of the new reactor will total nearly USD 1.3 billion, and its estimated completion is 2009-2010.

The group Ecodefense feels that as a result Russia will be transformed into a testing ground for untried technologies not yet ready for commercial exploitation. 'Experiments by the atomic energy industry with plutonium at the Beloyarsk atomic energy station can only lead to fresh nuclear accidents and plutonium contamination on Russian territory. In the Sverdlovsk region alone, nearly 4.5 million could be affected by an accident at the plant, not to mention other regions in Russia,' said Sliviak.

In 1995, Japan suspended its own program for the development of fast neutron reactors following a major accident at the Mondzo reactor. The leader in atomic energy development, France, completely froze development of fast reactors at the end of the 1990s because of its unprofitability and proneness to accidents. China does not as yet have any fast reactors, and is eager to learn from the Russian experience.

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