Ecologists Express Alarm Over Northern Power Plant

Russian enterprises often consider payments to ecological funds to be secondary

As PRAVDA.Ru has reported before, ecologists have forecast that, this spring, the Russian city of Severodvinsk, a center of nuclear-submarine building, may face an ecological disaster of non-atomic nature. Ecologists say that the contents of the ash dump at the Severodvinsk Heat Electric Power Pant No. One (which has already exhausted its reserve) may flow into the nearby channels of the mouth of the Severnaya Dvina river, which could occur as a result of too-active inundation this year. An accident of this sort may result in deadly consequences. According to the power plant, however, the problem of possible ecological disaster has been solved for some time.

The Severodvinsk power plant mostly burns coal from the city of Inta that contains large amount of natural radionuclids, e.g., radium-226. The radionuclids become concentrated during burning and make a great "contribution" to the radiation doze experienced by the population living near the ionizing radiation source — which lies within city’s  precincts. They include tin, bismuth, palladium, plumbum and others. According to provisional estimates, there are about 400 tons of silver there. The radiation level comes to 60 microroentgens per hour, which exceeds the norm by several times!

The field of over 20 hectares is not natural; it appeared as the result of human activity, and forms a mound of nine meters. Scientists call the place an “artificial biochemical province.” The plant’s ash dump is already almost full; in such a condition, it will be able to operate only until the beginning of next year, at most. Then, there will be no place to dispose of the ashes.

As we can see, the ecological situation in the northern city is worsened not by enterprises producing nuclear submarines, but by its two heat-electric power plants. It is as if about 17 tons of waste emitted by the coal-burning heat power plant were dropping on citizens’ heads every year. Over the whole period of the heat-electric power plant's operation, about 8 million tons of unburned waste have been accumulated in the plant's ash dump and in the open Yuzhny pit that has already been closed. At least 200 thousand tons are added to the ash dump every year.

Recently, JSC Arkhenergo issued a press release saying that power-engineering specialists are sure that the idea that the heat-electric power plant’s ash dump may overflow as a result of the spring flood is incorrect, and that it was “dilettantish populism.” Local newspapers have already written about the subject.
Newspapers, ecologists and deputies are obliged to write and tell about everything going on in the region. It is probably a good thing when the community sets up a clamor, although it may be unpleasant for someone.

Thank God, ecologists were not quite exact with their forecasts concerning emission from the ash dump. It is very important that ecologists, together with regional deputies, have brought up the problem at all. If the ecologists hadn't raised a ruckus, would the problem ever have been touched upon? The ecological situation in the city is such that the problem requires finding a joint solution.

A session was recently held by JSC Northern Energetic Managing Co. In which participants suggested reconstruction of the ash dump at Heat Electric Power Plant No. 1. Construction of a new ash dump may cost up to 500 million rubles, which is a rather large sum. A project for reconstructing the old ash dump presupposes that the protecting dams must be raised from 11.5 to 16.5 meters.This measure will allow use of the dump for three to four more years.

This year, JSC Arkhenergo will be able to appropriate just 17 million rubles for reconstruction of the old ash dump. At the same time, it is planned to complete a plan for the construction of a new dump, and its cost and sources of financing are to be ascertained. One way to obtain financing is to change energy tariffs.

The decision of the regional power engineers to reconstruct Heat Electric Power Plant No. One’s old ash dump is a wise one. However, this method for solution of the problem will bring relief just for a certain period. Construction of a new ash dump requires a great deal of financing. For the whole process of construction, the heat-electric power plant needs about 110 million rubles. A little over 8 million rubles have been already spent on launching of construction work and on maintenance of the old ash dump.

A source of financing can still be found. It is often said that the whole of the country is the debtor of the chairman of Russia's energy monopoly, RAO UES of Russia, Anatoly Chubais. In fact, the energy sector in its turn is a debtor to nature.

Heat Electric Power Plant No. One owes 50 million rubles to the regional ecology fund. The reason why this debt arose is quite simple: In June 2002, the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation passed an appeal on the part of the Kola nuclear-power plant that rendered its ecological payments unnecessary. This became a nice precedent for other nature-management enterprises all over the country not to pay ecological dues. While the Nature Management Ministry studied the situation and tried to persuade enterprises that ecological payments were essential, the debts remained unsettled. In December 2002, the Constitutional Court corrected its mistake and decreed that payments for nature management must be made at the previously fixed rates, which is why the Severodvinsk heat-electric power plant’s debt to the ecology fund is so great.

It often happens that Russian enterprises consider payments to ecological funds to be of secondary importance. This situation can be improved by emendation of the Tax Code and by introduction of an ecological tax. If this tax is introduced legally, then it will be the fiscal police that control payment of the tax. This measure in turn would help to get financing for such work as, for example, the construction of a new ash dump at Heat Electric Power Plant No. One in the northern city of Severodvinsk.

Author`s name Michael Simpson