suspends shipment of spent nuclear fuel to Russia for reprocessing,
plans to adopt dry storage option
The environmental organization Bellona
27 January 2000
Shipment of around 300 tons of Slovakian spent nuclear
fuel to Russia for reprocessing was abruptly halted by the Slovakian
Ministry of Economy. Ivan Miklosh, the deputy head of the ministry,
said the deal was damaging for the country's economy what prompted its
suspension for indefinite time.
Slovakian spent fuel was to come from the Soviet
designed reactors at Bohunice nuclear power plant. Slovak Electricity
Utilities company was on contract with its Russian counterpart Tenex
(also known as Joint Stock Company Techsnabexport) to ship 10 train
sets loaded with spent fuel to Russia. The first train was to departure
late January last year.
But in the end of 1999, Slovak Electrical Utilities
said it was not able to pay for shipment and insisted on funding the
deal through restructuring the debt of the Soviet Union (now Russia)
to Slovakia. The debt is said to be around $1 billion.
The first week of January, a new energy sector development
strategy was approved in Slovakia. The country today faces two alternatives
regarding management of spent nuclear fuel. The first alternative that
assumes shipment of spent fuel to Russia would roughly cost $6 billion.
The price tag for the second option - construction of a dry storage
- is around $1,7 billion. This particular deference drew the attention
of the Slovakian Ministry of Economy that pushed through to suspend
Slovakia is among the four countries that keep shipments
of spent fuel for reprocessing at the Mayak plant in South-Ural (the
others are the Czech Republic, Bulgaria and Ukraine). All four are evaluating
viability of such policy.
In 1995, Finland decided to build a storage facility
for spent nuclear fuel generated at the Soviet-designed Lovisa Nuclear
Hungary claimed it would to halt shipments and working
on completing a dry storage. Russian NGOs applauded the decision made
by Slovakian government and expresses their hopes the deal would never
"The plans to ship nuclear waste to Russia are not
economically viable and environmentally dangerous," Vladimir Slivyak,
the co-ordinator of antinuclear campaign of Russian Socio-Ecological
Union, said to Bellona Web. "They started to understand it in Slovakia
but not in Russia," Slivyak added.
The refusal of Slovakia to go on with the deal will
be yet another blow for the Russian reprocessing industry. Such situation
is greeted by the Russian NGOs since the Mayak reprocessing plant has
been and still is the main contributor to the radioactive contamination
of the area around.
Slovakia operates five VVER-type nuclear reactors:
Four at Bohunice nuclear power plant and one at Mochovce nuclear power