Russian radioactive waste issues and challenges

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Russia is one of quite a few countries in the world with a full nuclear chain (incl. mining, U-enrichment, fuel fabrication, nuclear power plants, submarines, icebreakers, nuclear weapons, spent nuclear fuel [reprocessing], radwaste management [RWM], etc.). Radioactive waste is produced at each stage of the chain. Due to historical reasons (strong military connection) and due to the current political situation (lack of freedom of speech, freedom of associations, environmentalists harassment) – opportunities for civil society groups are quite limited both in information access and in public participation in decision making.

There are several hot issues regarding RWM:

  • huge volumes of liquid radioactive waste are still pumped underground at 3 sites (yes, it is legal);
  • military nuclear reactors (decommission) is currently done by on-site burying;
  • high level radioactive waste (HLW) deep repository (at underground research lab stage) is implemented in granites nearby Krasnoyarsk (ignoring Swedish findings)

There is still a risk of foreign radioactive waste import to Russia. (Remember the case of URENCO depleted uranium waste transportations to Russia – which were stopped after a strong German-Russian campaign against it.)

Lack of transparency and lack of public participation in RWM gives lot of freedom to the nuclear industry. We try to address this challenge by monitoring the radwaste projects of Rosatom, by information requests, by participation in public hearings, etc.

Andrey Ozharovsky
(member of the Russian Radioactive Waste Safety Program – an NGO initiative to monitor radwaste issues and to make impact at decision making process