Author`s name Olga Savka

Hungary To Export Spent Fuel to Russia Illegally

Hungary is determined to get rid of the contaminated equipment

Ecologists say, spokespeople for the nuclear ministry and Paks nuclear power plant have discussed a contract in Budapest, which stipulates the export of nuclear fuel installations damaged as a result of the breakdown in the spring of 2003. The officials also negotiated the export of 1,500 tons of spent nuclear fuel to Russia.

Negotiations in Budapest took place between the Russian nuclear power minister, spokespeople for the Hungarian Paks nuclear power plant and Hungarian Economy Minister Istvan Csillag. Hungary offers the Russian Nuclear Ministry to import about 1,500 tons of spent fuel. However, Hungary is ready to pay about $400 per kilo, which is three times as less the world price. Hungary is interested in exporting spent nuclear fuel to Russia, to get rid of fuel installations and other equipment that was seriously damaged and contaminated with radiation as a result of the breakdown in April of 2003. "If the Russian Nuclear Ministry agrees, the deal would contradict to the Russian law, which bans the import of radioactive waste," the international Ecoprotection group said.

Two days before the negotiations, the Russian company TVEL was awarded in Budapest with a 4.5-million dollar worth contract. The company is to liquidate the consequences of the breakdown, which occurred during the cleaning of fuel holders. According to the information from a source at the Hungarian government, the Russian company was chosen on the assumption of the possibility to send the contaminated equipment to Russia in compliance with contract terms. Hungarian economy ministry stated yesterday, the contract to export the spent fuel to Russia "would probably be signed by the end of the current year."

Russian nuclear ministry's agreement to accept the nuclear waste will probably become the decisive factor for signing the contract. Spokespeople for Ecoprotection ecological group say, it was not Hungary's first attempt to export spent nuclear fuel to Russia illegally. In 1997, the nuclear power ministry signed a contract to import about 400 tons of spent fuel from Hungary. However, the Russian Supreme Court ruled in February of 2002, the transaction was illegal. Moreover, Hungary refused to take the waste back, and the nuclear power ministry announced it was not going to send it back. Russia is the only place in the world, where the reprocessed spent fuel is buried at processing enterprises. This is exactly what is going to happen to the Hungarian nuclear waste - it is to be reprocessed at the enterprise Mayak in the Chelyabinsk region. 

"The cooperation between the Russian nuclear power ministry and Hungary has already resulted in the illicit import of spent fuel to Russia. Now the spent fuel will have to be buried in the Chelyabinsk region. The continuation of such cooperation will make Russia become the dump for the Hungarian radioactive garbage for the benefit of a small group of nuclear power industry to the detriment of future Russian generations," Vladimir Slivyak, co-chairman of the Ecoprotection group said. "The nuclear waste import increases the risk of terrorist acts and plundering during the transportation of the nuclear material."

According to opinion polls conducted by ROMIR research center, about 90 percent of the Russian population has a negative attitude to the import of foreign nuclear waste in Russia. Ecologists demand adequate negotiations between the Russian ministry and the Hungarian authorities should be stopped.

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