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The BBC's Steve Rosenberg
"Many Russians fear that their country could be turned into the world's number one nuclear dustbin"
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Doctor Rose Gottemoeller
from Carnegie Endowment for Intenational Peace
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Greenpeace's Mike Townsley
describes the Mayak nuclear storage facility in the southern Urals
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Wednesday, 6 June, 2001, 11:19 GMT 12:19 UK
Russia to import nuclear waste
Poster reading
Protesters' banners warned against the nuclear bill
Russia will import, store and reprocess other countries' nuclear waste, following the approval of the third and final reading of a controversial bill by the Russian lower house of parliament.

One hundred million Russian citizens are against it and only 500 people are for

Grigory Yavlinsky
Once passed by the upper house and signed by the president, the bill will earn Russia's Atomic Energy Ministry up to $20bn over a 10-year period.

The ministry has promised to use part of the money to clean up Russian regions polluted by radioactive waste from the Soviet-era nuclear programme.

But environmentalists and other opponents previous pledges to clean up nuclear contamination have gone unfulfilled.

European concern

Grigory Yavlinsky, leader of the liberal Yabloko party and one of the main opponents of the bill, told the chamber: "One hundred million Russian citizens are against it and only 500 people are for - 300 members sitting here and 200 bureaucrats who will be getting the money."

Last month the EU Environment Commissioner Margot Walstrom told Russian officials that European countries were concerned about Russian safety levels for the processing and transportation of nuclear waste.

She said the processing centre in the Ural mountains where it is planned to treat the waste did not meet European safety norms.

'Valuable' material

The deputy chairman of the 450-member State Duma, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, defended the bill, explaining that what the government has called waste, is actually a valuable resource.

We have to take a careful look at all the consequences, think about guaranteeing security, and only then make our decision

Yegor Stroyev, upper house speaker
"Waste is something found at a dump. It stinks and crawls with microbes and beetles. This, on the other hand, is a very valuable raw material for the production of plutonium and uranium, all of which may be used to heat and light the country," Mr Zhirinovsky told Russia TV.

The bill passed by 243 to 125, with seven deputies abstaining, in a vote that took only 20 minutes.

But the speaker of Russia's upper chamber of parliament, Yegor Stroyev, warned that the Federation Council may have serious concerns about the bill.


"We will take our time with this decision," he said

"First, we have to take a careful look at all the consequences, think about guaranteeing security, and only then make our decision."

The bill amends existing legislation to allow Russia to import and store on a "temporary" basis nuclear waste and byproducts from abroad.

It does not specify time limits.

Russian towns, rivers and large tracts of land were exposed to radioactive pollution during the secretive development of the Soviet nuclear industry, and environmentalists say they remain dangerously polluted.

Scientist Alexei Yablokov, a former presidential adviser, has said opinion polls show 90% of voters are against the bill.

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See also:

21 Sep 00 | Europe
Russia's nuclear dangers
11 Sep 00 | Europe
Russia unplugged nuclear sites
24 May 99 | Sci/Tech
Chernobyl legacy mounts
28 Mar 01 | Sci/Tech
Nuclear waste: A long-lived legacy
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