Territory Destroyed. It Remains Only to Mine It - 25 December, 2002

The Far East doesn’t want another Chernobyl

The regional authorities together with the RF Ministry of Atomic Energy have been actively persuading the local population for more than ten years that Primorye will inevitably stagnate if a nuclear power plant wasn’t constructed there. But the careless population actively stands up against the project. Ecologists say that construction of a nuclear power plant in Primorye is impossible because of the peculiarities of the territory’s geological structure. The problem is that the region’s territory is split into tectonic blocks, that is why construction of a nuclear power plant there is a delayed-action mine from the standpoint of security. Besides, as of now, the region has no expert report necessary for making a reasoned decision. Necessary investigations in the region must be held within five years at the minimum. But the regional administration adheres to a quite different opinion. The head of the Primorye regional department for international cooperation, regional development and investments, Viktor Gorchakov says: “The region has no alternative yet. Because of political intrigues, we lost about 15 years already, but the problem connected with construction of a nuclear power plant will arise again sooner or later. No oil has been found yet in Primorye, the coal supply is insignificant in the region and the coal is of poor quality. That is why we need our own sources of energy.”

At that, high ranking officials ignore the expert estimates saying the local coal supplies of Primorye will be enough for 200 years and that the installed nuclear capacity at the region’s stations exceeds the region’s current needs at least twice. It means, in order to organize steady operation, fuel delivery must be wonderfully scheduled; in this case, the existing capacities will be enough for 50 years more. Besides, there are lots of alternative projects for construction of harmless tidal and wind electric power stations in Primorye, but the regional officials persistently follow their own way. It is quite natural as very large sums of money are at stake.

The disputes about construction of a nuclear power station in Primorye began long ago and still continue, however, scientists don’t waste time and look for a site for a prospective nuclear power plant. Some of them want to attach the station to one of the large cities (Vladivostok, Nakhodka, Ussuriisk) in order to save money on construction of houses for the station’s personnel. Others want to build the station in the city of Artyom, or right in the center of the region. It is supposed that the prospective nuclear power station in Primorye will also supply energy to North Korea and Chinese provinces neighboring Primorye. In any case, a large-scale PR-campaign must be organized before construction of the station in order to get rid of the Chernobyl complex which is still strongly inherent to the local population. Some time ago governor Sergey Darkin assured the people that a special referendum would be held before construction of the station. Besides, it is supposed that the nuclear project will be completely controlled by the federal authority; thus, the local authorities that are dependent upon the Primorye electorate, will be distanced from the project (which by the way is unpopular among the population).

The project is registered not on paper only; even a special state-run enterprise “Direction of the Primorye Nuclear Power Station under construction” was set up. If the construction is approved, it is to be completed by 2015-2020. This year, the federal budget appropriated 5 million rubles for development of technical and economic justification and for organization of special investigations; it is planned that the sum will make up 400 million rubles (the authorities probably hope that the referendum will be a success). At first, one generating unit of 1.000 megawatt in capacity will be launched at the beginning; four more units will be added later. Each of them costs 0.8-1 billion dollars approximately. It is planned that construction of the nuclear power station will be done with money of foreign investors.

Besides, governor of Primorye recently declared that he thinks it was necessary to increase the processing volumes of liquid and solid radioactive wastes. He says that government of Japan is ready to appropriate necessary finance. The fact that foreign states readily appropriate finance for such expensive projects obviously demonstrates for whom the nuclear power station will generate energy and from where nuclear wastes will be brought for processing in the region. In this case, the dividends will go to Moscow and the top officials of the regional administration; the population of Primorye will become the hostage in this situation.

In conclusion, as Novye Izvestia recently published, a group of EU experts investigated spending of finance designed for improving security at the Soviet nuclear power plants in Russia, former Soviet republics and in Eastern Europe. The auditors concluded: no visible results have been achieved within the eight years of work, the financing at the rate of about 1 billion dollars was spent in vain.

Sergey Cherednichenko

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Author`s name Michael Simpson