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Nuclear News - 02/22/99
RANSAC Nuclear News, 22 February, 1999

  1. Russia, Ukraine: Spent Fuel Feud, Bellona (02/18/99)
  2. Nuclear Waste Row Erupts, Moscow Tribune (02/19/99)
  3. Asian Nuclear Waste To Russia?, Bellona (02/19/99)
  4. U.S. Urges Russia to Help Avoid False Nuclear Alerts, New York Times(02/22/99)

Russia, Ukraine: Spent Fuel Feud
Russia And Ukraine Reach An Interim Agreement On Spent FuelTransactions.

February 18, 1999
(for personal use only)

Ukraine will be paying more per kilogram of spent nuclear fuel shippedfor long term storage in Siberia this year, the Ukrainian news agencyUNIAN reported. The rate is a $45 increase in comparison to prices lastyear.

In early December 1998 Krasnoyarsk County governor, Aleksandr Lebed,said the mining and chemical combine in his county would not acceptspent nuclear fuel from Ukraine for "small money;" so the rate wasincreased $45 to $330 per kilogram.

Governor Lebed insisted that the world price for storing spent fuel wasbetween $700 and $1000, "while we accept fuel for $285 [per kilogram],"Lebed said.

The deadlock over a suitable fee has lasted three months, during whichRussian nuclear minister, Yevgeny Adamov, and Ukrainian cabinet leader,Valery Pustovoytenko, tried several approaches with the rebelliousKrasnoyarsk governor. A compromise was reached last month when Ukraineagreed to a small increase, although still far below of theinternational going rate for spent fuel.

The Ukrainian state-owned nuclear operator sent in $57 million worth ofspent fuel to Russia in 1998. The company still owes its Russiancontractors $13 million yet plans to ship $105 million of theradioactive cargo this year.

Krasnoyarsk Mining and Chemical Combine (KMCC), located inZheleznogorsk, includes an underground radiochemical plant with threereactors; two are now closed and the third produces electricity for thecity. The plant was commissioned in 1964 to reprocess spent fuel fromits own reactors, from which it derived weapon grade plutonium.

Construction of a RT-2 reprocessing plant for the combine is 30 per centcomplete and needs $4 billion to be finished. The plant was designed todeal with fuel from VVER-1000 reactors and has a storage facility with acapacity of 6000 tons.

Ukraine considers dry storage Russian officials say the price foraccepting spent fuel will go up in the coming years to meetinternational standards. In response, the Ukrainians announced plans tobuild a dry storage facility of their own, extending the scope ofpotential environmental harm.

Ukraine operates 14 nuclear reactors; most of which are the VVER-1000type handled by the Krasnoyarsk Combine. Last month, informationagencies reported Ukraine was constructing a storage site for spent fuelat Zaporozh'e nuclear power plant. The plant has six VVER-1000's inoperation. Its spent fuel will be stored in ferro-concrete casks, quiteunlike the water pools storage method applied at the KrasnoyarskCombine.

RT-2's life hangs in the balance. The decision of Krasnoyarsk's governorto raise the price was not welcomed at the Russian Ministry for AtomicEnergy. "It is unrealistic to raise the price of storage to $800 or$1000 per kilogram since, if the terms are such, it would be moreprofitable for Ukraine to build its own storage facility," YuriBespalko, a spokesman for the Nuclear Ministry, said to ITAR-TASS.

The Ukraine is one of the few customers of the incomplete RT-2reprocessing plant and helps it survive. Kozloduy nuclear power plant inBulgaria is another customer and operates two VVER-1000. Russia operatesseven of the type, but its plants have failed to make regular paymentsto the Krasnoyarsk Combine while in an economic netherworld of theirown.

Management at Krasnoyarsk Combine have been vocal and persistent whilelobbying for amendments to Russia's body of environmental laws thatwould make it possible to import spent fuel for storage. Such amendmentswere scheduled for discussion yesterday in the Russian Federal Council,upper chamber of the Russian parliament. If the proposed changes are notpassed Krasnoyarsk Combine will have to stick to the few regularcustomers it has. Losing Ukraine would not bode well for the combine.With Ukraine's adoption of a dry storage solution RT-2's chances ofextending its commission are slim.
Nuclear Waste Row Erupts
Lyuba Pronina
Moscow Tribune
February 19, 1999
(for personal use only)

Russian environmentalists blasted the Atomic Energy Ministry lastMonday for trying to secure an amendment to a federal law that will givethe green light for other countries to dump their nuclear waste onRussian territory.

The cashapped ministry, in search of money to "upgrade" thenuclear industry, is pushing through an amendment to the law onprotection of the environment that would eliminate the unwelcome hurdlecurrently prohibiting the storage of foreign nuclear waste.

The amendment proposed by deputy Sergei Shashurin of the People'sPower group has been discussed and approved by the leaders of theCommunist Party (KPRF), Our Home Is Russia (NDR), Vladimir Zhirinovsky'sliberal democrats (LDPR), Agrarian and Russian Regions parliamentaryfactions, as well as by head of the Duma security committee ViktorIlyukhin and head of the Duma budget committee Aleksander Zhukov. TheChairman of the State Duma Gennady Seleznyov has filed a letter withPrime Minister Yevgeny Primakov to examine the expediency of theamendment.

On Monday environmentalists, together with the Yabloko Duma faction,followed with the intent to stall the amendment at the governmentallevel.

"We are against this amendment because the country does not have thecapacity to process this waste," Aleksei Yablokov, co-chairman of theSocial Environmental Union, said at a press conference on Monday. Threereprocessing plants in Krasnoyarsk, Tomsk and Chelyabinsk built in theSoviet times are all in terrible shape, desperately struggling to dealwith Russia's own waste. To build new plants and renovate the existingones, for which the ministry is trying to raise funds, will cost a"colossal" $15-20 billion said environmentalists. Even the amount ofmoney received through nuclear waste storage would be only a smallportion of what is necessary for the construction.

Greenpeace previously made public the negotiations between theatomicenergy ministry and the Swiss government to dispose of its 2,000 tonnesof spent nuclear fuel and 500 cubic meters of highly radioactive wastefor $10 million. This was grudgingly confirmed by ministry officials,but only at the level of intentions.

Among other interested parties Greenpeace named are Germany, Spain,South Korea, Taiwan and possibly Japan.

On Monday, the Social Environmental Union unveiled yet anotherdocument. In a recent letter to the U.S. Secretary of Energy, WilliamRichardson, head of the ministry Yevgeny Adamov was courting theAmerican side over the possibility of permanently housing U.S. nuclearwaste.

"... given the search for ways to develop mutual relations betweenthe United States and Russia, including in the field of nuclear power,it seems to us that it would be advisable to examine the question of thepossible transfer, on a commercial basis, of spent fuel from U.S.nuclear power plants to Russia for its long-term storage and subsequentreprocessing at the Russian Federation Minatom (Ministry of AtomicEnergy) enterprises," the letter read.

"We could examine different versions for implementing that approach,both with and without the return of highly active reprocessing productsto the United States."

The offer in itself, though seemingly "highly lucrative," is alsoagainst the federal law on the protection of the environment.

"Russia is virtually turning into a commercial dump for Eastern andWestern nuclear waste," says Vladimir Slivyak, coordinator for theanti-nuclear campaign of the Social Environmental Union, who providedthe copy of the letter.

The ministry and the deputies in favor of the amendment also seem tobe concerned about the ever-growing pile of home-produced nuclear waste.Shashurin could not be reached on Monday. But his aide, who also tookpart in the drafting of the amendment, supported the fact that Russia'snuclear waste must to be dealt with urgently.

"It (nuclear waste) is scattered throughout the entire country,"saidthe aide, who demanded anonymity. "We have no funds to reprocess thiswaste, so the idea proposed by deputy Shashurin will help to raise thismoney. Russia has unique technologies to reprocess nuclear waste.Countries such as Taiwan and Japan offer us money in return foraccommodating 10 percent of their waste."

The entire program, deputies say, should fetch no less than $200billion. "For 10 percent of their waste, we would get rid of 90 percentof ours. This is the only way out," the aide said. Authors of theamendment also hope the money received for the waste will help resolve ahost of social problems.

However, environmentalists argue that the fund raising program isnothing but a ploy. "It looks like the ministry is trying to deceive us.They are not going to reprocess the waste. [Not having sufficientcapacity] they want to use the territory of Russia as a nuclear dump,get the money and have it at their disposal," said Yablokov.

"This money is aimed to fill state coffers but it will not be givento pensioners, doctors or teachers, but will be wasted as before," saidLidiya Popova, director of the Center of Nuclear Ecology and EnergyPolicy. Environmentalists cited the example of how $1 billion providedby the European Council was wasted over the past ten years.
Asian Nuclear Waste To Russia?
Thomas Nilsen
February 19, 1999
(for personal use only)

Researchers from Russia and Japan are drawing up a joint proposal toship 10,000 tonnes of spent nuclear fuel from several Asian countriesand store it in Russia for 20 years. Experts from Russia's KurchatovInstitute and the University of Japan recently designed a proposal forshipping spent nuclear fuel from civilian nuclear power plants in Japan,South Korea and Taiwan to Russia. The spent nuclear fuel could stored inRussia for several decades or reprocessed at a planned RT-2 processornear Krasnoyarsk, Siberia. According to the February edition of NuclearEngineering International, Russia would make $1 billion in the deal; atremendous amount of money for the bankrupt Russian nuclear industry,while much less than Japan spends shipping spent fuel to reprocessingplants in Europe. Japan, Taiwan and South Korea are among the fewcountries in the world still building new nuclear power plants. Japanoperates 52 reactors.

Japan's shipments of spent fuel to La Hague (operated by COGEMA, France)and Sellafield (operated by British Nuclear Fuel, BNFL, United Kingdom)are reported to be near an end. The two European reprocessing plantshave accepted a combined 7,100 tonnes of spent fuel from Japan. Theproposed deal with Russia amounts to 10,000 tonnes. But current Russianenvironmental law forbids the import of spent nuclear fuel, althoughthis may change. The Russian State Duma, minus the Yabloko faction,signed a proposal in January to amend the Law on EnvironmentalProtection and lift the ban on radioactive imports, even if theradioactive waste stays in Russia. Bellona Web has learned from sourcesin Moscow that Japanese citizens have been among the more effectivelobbyists for lifting the ban. Minatom is said to have negotiated withJapan for several years to ensure the latter would benefit from an earlyshipment contract once the ban was no more.

Such information doesn't surprise the anti-nuclear movement in Russia.The Japanese nuclear industry is said to have hired Minatom to lobby theRussian Duma, helping ensure Japan could shed its nuclear waste;something the best scientists in Japan have not been able to do. ShouldRussia's laws be changed, Japan will be among those responsible forturning Russia into the world' nuclear waste dump, says VladimirSlivyak, a co-ordinator for the anti-nuclear campaign with the SocialEcological Union in Moscow.
U.S. Urges Russia to Help Avoid False Nuclear Alerts
Michael R. Gordon
New York Times
February 22, 1999
(for personal use only)

MOSCOW -- The United States has urged Russia to set up a jointmissile-warning center before the end of the year to reduce the riskthat the year 2000 computer problem might trigger a false nuclear alert.

The proposal was made in talks last week between U.S. and Russiandefense officials, a senior Pentagon official said Sunday.

It is part of a broader effort to prevent the millennium bug fromdisrupting Russian systems used to warn of enemy attack and to maintaincontrol over the nation's vast nuclear arsenal.

"The Russians responded with interest," the official, Edward Warner, anassistant secretary of defense, said in an interview. "We just informedthem within the last few days."

As the year 2000 approaches, experts around the world have beenconcerned about computer breakdowns that might occur if softwaremisinterprets the year 2000 as the year 1900.

The problem has received substantially less attention in Russia than inthe West. It remains a worry for military specialists, however, who fearthat computer problems might disrupt radar and command systems on whichthe Russians depend to retaliate against a nuclear attack.

Pentagon officials say the danger of an accidental nuclear war isminimal, even if the millennium bug is not fully eradicated. Asober-minded military leadership and a general awareness of the year2000 problem, they say, should be sufficient to prevent the Russiansfrom inadvertently firing their nuclear missiles.

"The impression that either side has a fully computerized system isfalse," Warner said.

Still, the Pentagon does not want to take any chances. Even before theyear 2000 problem arose, experts had been concerned that miscalculationmight lead the two sides to stumble into a nuclear war. In 1995, forexample, the Russian military initially misinterpreted the launching ofa Norwegian scientific rocket as a possible submarine missile attack.

Since then, Russia's network of early-warning radars and satellites hasdecayed, adding to U.S. concerns. The Russian radar station at Skrunde,Latvia, has been closed, for example, now that Latvia is an independentcountry. That leaves a gap in the military's radar coverage in thenorthwest.

The Russian decision to abandon its radar at Krasnoyarsk, Siberia, hasalso left the nation with a gap in the northeastern part of itsterritory.

Begun during Soviet times, the construction of that radar systemviolated the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which stipulated thatsuch systems be located on the periphery of each side's territory.Following years of pressure from the Reagan administration, which wasprimarily worried about the Soviet military threat, the radar wasdismantled during the waning years of the Soviet Union at the insistenceof the United States, which was primarily worried about the Sovietmilitary threat.

The proposal that Pentagon officials presented last week is actually avariant of a plan on which the two sides agreed when President Clintonmet with President Boris Yeltsin in September, but it has yet to becarried out.

During their summit meeting, they signed an accord under which theUnited States and Russia would instantly share data about the launchingof ballistic missiles and space payloads.

It was a major step toward cooperation between the former adversaries,which would have been unthinkable during the Cold War. But the veryeasing of tensions that made the agreement possible also seemed todetract from the urgency of carrying it out -- at least, for theRussians, who have been preoccupied with political and economic crisis.

The Pentagon still hopes to carry out the September accord. But fearfulthat the agreement may not be carried out before January 2000, it is nowurging that it be put into effect on a temporary basis, if necessary.

"The idea would be to build a temporary bridge across the year 2000,"Warner said.

This is how it would work. A joint missile-warning center would beestablished, probably in the vicinity of Moscow. It would be staffedwith both U.S. and Russian officers.

The United States would transmit data about missile launches from itssatellite and land-based radars to that center and also separately tothe Russian military's command center.

The U.S. data, in effect, would help the Russians plug the gaps in theirearly-warning system and help prevent them from misidentifying a launch.The U.S. officers would help sort out any confusion.

That is not the only step under discussion. Pentagon officials plan toreturn in about a month and discuss technical issues about how the year2000 problem can be diagnosed and fixed.

The Russian Defense Ministry has been reluctant to allow outsiders,including Russians who do not work for the agency, to inspect itscomputers. But U.S. officials may be able to provide some usefuladvice without inspecting the Russian systems.

The Russian Defense Ministry has publicly said that it has the situationunder control. Other Russian officials have not been so encouraging.

"We have to admit that not all agencies have achieved positive results,"Alexander Krupnov, chairman of the State Communications Committee, saidlast month. "Such structures as the Defense Ministry have significantdifficulties as regards all types of missiles."

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