Russia - Plutonium Investigation n°12/13

Russia Stops Construction of Plutonium Storage Site for Environmental Violations

The Russian Goskomekologia (State Committee on Environment) stopped the construction of the U.S. funded plutonium storage site in Mayak on 10 April 1998. The reasons for this rather spectacular action remain unclear. The storage site, which has been under construction for three years, is intended to be an interim storage facility for plutonium from nuclear warheads. It is funded by the U.S. Department of Defence (DoD) under the Co-operative Threat Reduction program (CTR), and is one of the cornerstones of U.S. nuclear non-proliferation efforts in Russia. Up to then, the U.S. had provided US$55 million to the construction, which will cost some US $250 million. The first stage was expected to be completed by the end of 2000. The storage will hold 50 000 containers with plutonium from 12 500 nuclear warheads.

According to Goskomekologia the construction can continue after officials prepare new technical and environmental documents and receive a positive finding from the State committee on Environment. The construction work has been going on without the formal Environmental Impact Assessment having been formally completed. According to independent sources, there are some indications that the Assessment department had wanted its "share" from the American finances.

Yury Golovin, a consultant to Mayak, has said in an interview with Moscow Times that they could have performed this study in about a month, but due to the 'spotty' financing from the Russian side, this has not been done. An ecological study conducted by researchers from Mayak would not have been legally valid, critics argue, as Russian law requires an impact survey from an independent body.

(Source: Bellona Foundation, SEU)

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