Russia - Plutonium Investigation n°12/13

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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Worth Reading & Surfing

"Managing Wastes With and Without Plutonium Separation",Brian G. Chow and Gregory S. Jones, RAND, 1999, 45 pages

"Does Burning Weapons Plutonium Generate Hotter Waste and Consume More Repository Space?",
Gregory S. Jones, Brian G. Chow and S. Rae Starr,
RAND, November 1998, 20 pages