Staunton, October 24 – Despite a 2009 promise that it would not take in more nuclear wastes from abroad (fedpress.ru/news/russia/economy/628290), Moscow will be taking in from Europe more than 12,000 tons of uranium tailings over the next several years, a profitable but potentially dangerous move, Greenpeace Russia reports (svoboda.org/a/30234658.html).
While the environmental organization says that most of the materials involved have relatively low concentrations of U-235 and while Europe now is more interested in having these materials stored rather than reprocessed, this latest action is certain to provoke increasingly environmentally conscious Russians.
The materials now to be imported are of sufficiently low dose, Valentin Gibalov, a Russian specialist on atomic energy, says, that they are more of a threat chemically than in terms of radiation and even that is minimal. But he expresses concern that the procedures for storing the materials may not be included in the contract, which remains unpublished.
Most likely, the imported uranium will be stored in containers of the same kind as Russia stores its own nuclear tailings; but these in many cases date to the 1950s, are kept outdoors, and are subject to deterioration, a pattern the Presidential Human Rights Council warned about in February 2019 (president-sovet.ru/documents/read/664/).
Gibalov says that the company involved in the imports, Urenco, has not done itself any favors by its opaque approach to the problems that do exist. A more open approach would calm Russians rather than lead to rumors and speculation that could trigger protests. Those are now increasingly likely in the current environment where Russians are demonstrating against dumps.
Vladmir Slivyak, vice president of the environmental activist group Ekozashchita which led ecological protests in 2004 to 2009, describes the latest move to import nuclear wastes from Europe as “cynical and amoral” and shows that the Russian authorities once again are putting profit before the welfare of the Russian people.