In 2004 Russia will hardly be able to sign new contracts for bringing nuclear waste into the country for storage and processing, Russian Minister of Atomic Energy Alexander Rumyantsev said in an interview to ITAR-TASS information agency.
"They just don’t allow us to enter this profitable market", said the Minister. According to him, the global nuclear waste market has been taken over by other countries, in first place the US and France, for a long time.
"No negotiations on possible contracts related to nuclear waste are currently being conducted", he added.
Amendments to the legislation allowing to import nuclear waste to Russia for temporary storage and processing were adopted in 2001. These amendments were being discussed by the parliament on the background of heated debates within the society and environmentalists’ objections against their adoption. Some politicians are still campaigning against nuclear waste import.
Officials of Russian Ministry of Atomic Energy believe that importing nuclear waste is "extremely profitable." They calculated that Russia has the capacity to accept foreign nuclear waste at the price of 1,000 dollars per kg and earn about 20 billion dollars. The net profit may reach 10 billion dollars which was supposed to be spent mostly on solving environmental problems.
In addition, converted nuclear waste can serve as fuel for nuclear power stations.
According to Rumyantsev, adopting the amendments was primarily targeted not at signing new contracts, but at "supporting export" of the new nuclear fuel produced in Russia. It is delivered to the nuclear power stations of so-called "Soviet design" constructed earlier by Soviet specialists in many former socialist countries. In addition, fuel produced in Russia is supposed to be supplied to nuclear power stations currently under construction in China, India and Iran. Russian Ministry of Atomic energy participates in these projects, and returning nuclear fuel waste is required by these projects not to allow further disseminating nuclear technologies.
At the beginning of 2004 additional agreement between Russia and Iran on nuclear waste return from the nuclear power stations in Busher (which is under construction) should be signed.