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X-USSR antinuclear campaign' newsletter

* March - Apr'98 * N11
Most important news from field of nuclear power and protests

Published bi-monthly by the Ex-USSR Antinuclear campaign.
Editor: Vladimir Sliviak


CONTENTS

  • Government
    YELTSIN REPLACES FIRED MINISTERS INCLUDING NUCLEAR ONE
  • NGOs
    NIXMOX: INTERNATIONAL MOX ACTION, MARCH 16
  • Scandal
    RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT STOPS CONSTRUCTION OF U.S.-FUNDED PLUTONIUM SITE FOR ENVIRONMENTAL VIOLATIONS

  • [starten af x-ussr nr.11] [x-ussr hovedoversigt] [OOAs international emneside] [OOAs velkomstside]

    YELTSIN REPLACES FIRED MINISTERS INCLUDING NUCLEAR ONE

    Russian President Boris Yeltsin replaced three cabinet ministers he had fired over the weekend with three veteran officials.

    Reports also say Yeltsin today (March 2) signed a decree sacking powerful Atomic Energy Minister Viktor Mikhailov. The reports said Mikhailov would be transferred to an unspecifie d scientific job. New minister Evgene Adamov, a representative of scientific nuclear elite, has been placed in Minatom. Mikhailov stated in one of interview that Adamov strongly support russian nuclear reactors RBMK.

    Russian news agencies reported that after meeting Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin this morning, Yeltsin announced he had appointed Security Council Secretary Ivan Rybkin to replace Valery Serov as Deputy Prime Minister responsible for relations with other members of the Commonwealth of Independent States.

    Presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky also said Yeltsin has appointed Yury Mikhailov as Transport Minister and Aleksandr Tikhonov as Education Minister to replace Nikolai Tsakh and Vladimir Kinelyov, fired Saturday, at the same time as Serov. Mikhailov and Tikhonov previously served as deputies of the ministries they now head.

    Rybkin was named Security Council Secretary in October 1996. Since then, he has led negotiations with Russia's breakaway republic of Chechnya. He told journalists today that, during a "transition period," he will continue to supervise relations between Russia and Chechnya, and declined to name his possible successor on the Security Council. Interax news agency said today that a Security Council meeting, scheduled for tomorrow, has been postponed.

    Announcing the dismissals Saturday, Yeltsin's press service gave no explanations, but said the three officials were moving to "new jobs." However, the press service did not clarify which other posts they would take.

    During a government meeting last week to assess Russia's economic performance, Yeltsin had threatened to sack three Cabinet ministers, but had left the meeting without making names.

    Russia's independent NTV television yesterday said Yeltsin had decided whom to fire before the cabinet session, but had postponed announcing his decision until after his meetings with Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma, who was in Russia for his first state visit last week.

    Addressing the Thursday government session, Chernomyrdin had criticized various aspects of the government's performance in 1997, particularly efforts to boost tax collection, foreign trade and cooperation with other CIS members. His remarks fueled speculation that Serov, as well as Foreign Trade Minister Mikhail Fradkov and State Tax Service chief Aleksandr Pochinok would soon loose their jobs.

    Today, Yeltsin denied that the replacements were anything beyond ordinary personnel rotations. The Itar-Tass news agency quoted him as saying "What reorganization? Ministers come and ministers go."

    The three officials sacked -- Serov, Tsakh and Kinelev -- are all considered relatively minor figures in the government. Speculation about Serov's dismissal had circulated widely in the Russian media since a CIS summit last October, at which other CIS leaders strongly criticized Russia over its failure

    to implement previous agreements, and for trying to establish a dominating role in this loose alliance of former Soviet republics.

    Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov yesterday criticized the Saturday dismissals, and accused Yeltsin and Chernomyrdin of ignoring the people's will in the reshuffle. Zyuganov said that the President and the Prime Minister "have forgotten how to listen to the country and have taken a course in neglecting public opinion."

    Zyuganov also said that the sackings were irrelevant, and were aimed at strengthening the government's liberal and pro-reform wing. He expressed regret that Yeltsin did not fire First Deputy Prime Ministers Anatoly Chubais and Boris Nemtsov and others described as reformers, who he said were responsible for Russia's economic decline. According to Zyuganov, Chubais and Deputy Prime Minister and Economics Minister Yakov Urinson, have "ruined the economy," while Nemtsov and deputy Prime Minister Oleg Sysuev are incapable of solving problems in the energy sector and social policy.

    State Duma Speaker Gennady Seleznev, also a Communist, told ITAR-TASS while visiting Kuwait, that he was "surprised" Urinson was not fired, since, in his view, the Economics Ministry has "failed to implement" government policies.

    Source: RFE/RL newsline

    [starten af x-ussr nr.11] [x-ussr hovedoversigt] [OOAs international emneside] [OOAs velkomstside]

    NIXMOX: INTERNATIONAL MOX ACTION

    WISE International - On March 16, the International NixMox Action Day, groups in Russia, the United States, Canada and several other countries held actions against the initiatives to use mixed oxide fuel in nuclear reactors. What follows is a report from the NIXMox press conference in Moscow and a Mock Mox-transport in North America.

    (489.4856) Sliviak/Kamps/Gelebart - March 16 was announced to be NixMox-day by a coalition of some 270 worldwide environmental and peace groups. In many countries actions against the use of Mox fuel took place.

    Russia Many activists in approximately 30 cities (from the Baltic Sea region to Kamchatka and the Far East) took part in the Action Day in Russia by organizing information events to stop Mox fuel initiatives of the Russian nuclear industry. The anti-Mox actions received good local, national and international media coverage. The activities included press-conferences and briefings, info-tours, visits to nuclear facilities, spreading leaflets about the governments intentions on Mox, music concerts, theatral events and much more. In Udomlya, a small town for the workers of the Kalinin nuclear plant, which is supposed to use Mox-fuel, activists delivered the leaflets door to door to each family on that day. In Kaliningrad, a place for Mox- transportation by sea, activists organized street theatre and free music concerts; many musicians performed for free in order to help the environmental activists. During this concert many musicians spoke out not only against the russian Mox program but also asked people to boycott Siemens. In Chelyabinsk, the place of the Mayak nuclear reprocessing facility and the proposed site to produce Mox in the future, environmental activists organized press-conference and other events for journalists and policians. In Moscow, a press conference: "Plutonium Economy: Environmental and Economic danger for Russia", was held by A. Yablokov (Center for Environmental Policy) and ex-adviser to President Yeltsin, L. Popova (Nuclear Environmental and Energy Policy Center), A. Seth (Energy and Environmental Research in Washington) and Vladimir Sliviak (Socio Ecological Union/Ecodefense!). "The use of plutonium as fuel in nuclear reactors will increase the volume of highly radioactive nuclear wastes as well as the threat of nuclear terrorism and enormous economic losses," said A. Yablokov.

    "The use of plutonium at nuclear power plants will require greater safety measures during fuel transportation, the construction of new facilities for manufacturing the fuel, and special facilities for storing the waste." Besides, he said, the existing reactors would have to be modernized to work on plutonium. "It is easy to guess that all these expenses will be covered from the pockets of taxpayers." Yablokov emphasized also that in Russia, existing water- moderated reactors and fast neutron reactors are to be switched to plutonium. He explained that the official reason for the new program is the need to convert plutonium from dismantled nuclear weapons so that the material could never be used for military purposes. However, plutonium cannot be destroyed in the reactor when Mox is used, there is plutonium left in the spent fuel and this plutonium could be separated out again by reprocessing. On top of that, this Mox program does not include the re-use of the commercial plutonium stocks (30 tons). And there are safer ways of converting plutonium: processing it into glass or ceramics or mixing it with highly active nuclear wastes after which plutonium assumes a form in which it cannot be used for military purposes. Pictures and report of the Nix-Mox Day in Russia are available on internet at: http://cci.glasnet.ru/anti-mox/

    North America In solidarity with the 239 organizations that signed onto the NIRS letter (see further) opposed to Mox, a coalition of safe energy, environmental, and citizen action groups in the USA and Canada organized a Mock Mox Transport that travelled nearly 1,000 km through the US states of Illinois, Indiana and Michigan, and into the province of Ontario, Canada. This Mock Transport alerted the public and the media to the US Department of Energy's (DOE) impending transport of Mox fuel from Los Alamos Nuclear Lab in New Mexico (the birthplace of the atomic bomb) to Chalk River Nuclear Lab in Ontario, Canada. This "test run"--code-named "Project Parallex"--is scheduled for actual transport sometime in March or April, 1998. "Parallex" will also involve Russian

    plutonium: the "burning" of US and ex-Soviet weapons plutonium as fuel in a Canadian reactor could launch the beginning of a massive Mox program in North America, as well as an expanded

    international plutonium economy. The Mock Transport consisted of a rented cargo truck plastered with banners. "The Peaceful Atom Is A Bomb!" adorned one side, referring to US nuclear industry public relations attempts to make Mox out to be a "Swords into Plowshares" project. On the back of the truck hung the banner "The Plutonium Is Coming! The Plutonium Is Coming!" with an image of Paul Revere riding a horse. Paul Revere, a hero of the American Revolutionary War known to all school children in the US, made a legendary "midnight ride" in 1775 through the countryside warning "The British are coming! The British are coming!", alerting his sleeping neighbors of an impending Britick attack. Street theater topped off the mobile action. "Paul Revere" addressed the gathered crowds at the different stops, warning the public and media about the impending "plutonium" invasion. "Pluto, God of the Dead," a grim specter wielding a "hydrogen bomb plutonium pit" in one hand and a four-meter-long "Mox fuel rod" in the other, warned listeners about the carcinogenic nature of plutonium, its 250,000 year deadliness, and the many dangers of the Mox plot, from weapons proliferation dangers to increased risks of reactor accidents, to more deadly consequences of such accidents, to even more dangerous high-level wastes.

    The Mock Transport travelled along one of the potential routes targeted by the US DOE. The mobile action culminated at the Blue Water Bridge at the border between the US and Canada. One Mox proposal calls for the transport of large quantities of weapons plutonium fuel rods from fabrication facilities in the US, over this bridge, to be "burned" at the Bruce Nuclear Reactors jutting out into Lake Huron on a peninsula in Ontario, Canada. "Paul Revere" warned the inhabitants of the Great Lakes about this danger to their region as well! Each of the six rallies along the way was well attended by local concerned citizens, Indigenous Peoples and activists, resulting in media coverage across the region. The culminating rallies at the border between the US and Canada were especially meaningful and powerful, given the significance of this location in regards to Mox. A sizeable crowd met the Mock Transport and accompanied it across the border. Even US and Canadian Immigration, Customs and police officers expressed concern about the impending Mox shipments, for they would be the first to respond to any accidents involving the transport of plutonium across the border.

    Source and Contact: Vladimir Sliviak at Socio Ecological Union/
    Ecodefense Moskovsky Prospect 120-34, 236006 Kaliningrad, Russia
    or Kevin Kamps at 'Don't Waste Michigan',
    c/o World Tree Center for Peace, Justice & Mother Earth.
    P.O. Box 50814, Kalamazoo, Michigan 49005 USA. Tel: +1-616-383-9317

    Source: WISE NC 489

    [starten af x-ussr nr.11] [x-ussr hovedoversigt] [OOAs international emneside] [OOAs velkomstside]

    For Immediate Release/April 8, 1998

    Contact: Michael Mariotte (NIRS), 202-328-0002

    Vladimir Sliviak (ECODEFENSE!), 7-0112-437286

    RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT STOPS CONSTRUCTION OF U.S.-FUNDED PLUTONIUM SITE FOR ENVIRONMENTAL VIOLATIONS

    The Russian Goskomekologia (Ministry of the Environment) March 27 ordered the shutdown of a construction site at the Mayak nuclear reprocessing plant near Chelyabinsk for violations of Russian environmental law. The shutdown will take affect by April 10. It is not clear whether work already has stopped at the site.

    The site is intended to be an interim storage facility for plutonium from nuclear warheads, and is funded by the United States Department of Defense. Construction of the site has been underway for about three years. The site is funded under the Cooperative Threat Reduction program (also known as Nunn-Lugar funding) and is a cornerstone of U.S. nuclear non-proliferation efforts in Russia.

    "Plutonium must be stored as safely and securely as possible, and it is in the interests of the U.S. to help assure that storage. To the extent that the Mayak project is aimed at preventing plutonium proliferation, it deserves support. However, it is an embarrassment if a U.S.-funded project cannot meet Russian environmental laws," said Michael Mariotte, executive director of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS), a Washington-based international environmental group

    Environmental activists in the region have another fear. They believe the Mayak complex also will be used for Russia's MOX (mixed-oxide) fuel program, which would use plutonium from warheads as fuel for commercial nuclear power reactors. Late last year, the European firms Cogema and Siemens announced that they have completed design work and are preparing to begin construction on a MOX fuel fabrication plant which would be located at Mayak.

    U.S. experts say that the DOD funded plutonium storage facility is not designed for MOX. But the proximity of the storage site to other facilities at Mayak causes concern among Russian environmentalists, who do not trust Minatom, the Russian Ministry of Atomic Power responsible for the site. Moreover, they argue that if Minatom cannot meet environmental laws in the construction of this site, there is no hope the agency will protect the environment and public health and safety in the vastly more complex and difficult MOX program.

    "This is the first time that the environmental authorities in Russia have used the power given to them by federal legislation in the right way," said Vladimir Sliviak of ECODEFENSE! and the Socio-Ecological Union, an umbrella organization composed of some 300 groups across the former Soviet Union. "It is important that Minatom be forced to respect the nation's environmental laws. Now the Goskomekologia must enforce the same laws at other nuclear facilities that are not in compliance, such as the nuclear reactors Rostov-1 and Kalinin-3."

    The U.S. Department of Energy is attempting to embark on a MOX program in the U.S., partly with the argument that because Russia wants to use MOX, so must the U.S. "The Russian people do not want MOX any more than do the American people" said Sliviak. "Minatom's carelessness in pushing ahead its plutonium program raises questions about its commitment to safety and environmental protection."

    More than 275 organizations in the U.S., Russia, Canada and elsewhere have signed a statement, first released March 16, objecting to the MOX programs in all countries, as part of a growing international NIX MOX campaign.

    Most environmental groups support "immobilization" of plutonium to ensure that it cannot be used in new nuclear weapons or as atomic reactor fuel.

    "The MOX program is uneconomic, unsafe, and is counter to non-proliferation principles," said Mariotte. "If Minatom and its U.S. contractor Bechtel (also a principal in some proposed U.S. MOX consortia) cannot even properly build storage facilities, how can anyone expect them to safely construct and operate the enormous infrastructure necessary for MOX fuel processing, much less the reactors themselves?"

    The Mayak facility closed by the government could re-open after officials prepare new technical and environmental documents and receive a positive finding from the Environment Ministry. But it is not known how long it may take for this process to occur.

    "It is essential that the dismantlement of nuclear warheads continue in both Russia and the U.S.," said Mariotte, "and that the plutonium from these warheads be stored as safely and securely as possible. That's the purpose of this facility, so we hope the environmental issues can be resolved quickly. But

    we also hope that both the U.S. and Minatom learn their lesson: environmental laws must be respected. Plutonium is a lethal waste, not a fuel or commodity, and it must be treated that way."

    [starten af x-ussr nr.11] [x-ussr hovedoversigt] [OOAs international emneside] [OOAs velkomstside]



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    Sidst opdateret 9. september 1998