March - April 1999 Editorial
Russia-Plutonium 'Paradise Lost'
In less than 50 years Russia has gone from a planned plutonium fuelled
'paradise' to a plutonium polluted nightmare. It will cost at conservative
estimates some US$ 500 billion to clean up. But nobody wants to foot
the full bill. The Russian authors of the most detailed study produced
to date on plutonium in Russia on which this issue of Plutonium Investigation
is partly based - say in their preface that they "wanted to show the
plutonium problem from various sides [but] this task has been rather
difficult, primarily because of the scarcity of reliable open sources
of information". In the five years since they published their path-breaking
report, information discovery has got slightly easier. But neither should
it pass without mention that researchers and journalists in Russia face
severe legal penalties from the State authorities if they try to disclose
information on the Russian atomic programme that the government wants
to remain secret. Thus earlier this year journalist Grigori Pasko faced
trial in Vladivostock for publishing information on the environmental
impacts of the sea dumping of radioactive wastes from the nuclear navy.
And Aleksandr Nitkin working for the Norwegian environmental group,
Bellona, faced charges of treason, and was held in virtual house arrest
in St Petersburg for making public details of the dangers posed by rotting
submarine reactors in Murmansk. Thus, as dozens of different organisations
are still involved in one way or another in plutonium production, storage
or its dispersal in Russia, this report suffers from the same difficulty
as earlier studies, ie that transparency and openness are certainly
not the priorities of many of these atomic authorities.
Of necessity this is therefore only a partial report on what is certainly
one of the most intractable environmental and security problems facing
the planet as we enter the new millennium.
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