Corruption may be behind Krasnoyarsk waste dispute

7 February 1999

The dispute between the Krasnoyarsk Territory, the Atomic Energy Ministry (MINATOM) and Ukraine is likely to rumble on for some time, despite attempts by MINATOM’s Yevgeny Adamov to broker a compromise. During a recent visit to Krasnoyarsk, he acknowledged that the local waste storage enterprise at Zheleznogorsk was not receiving market rates from Ukraine for storing its spent fuel and agreed that ultimately this should be the aim. However, it is clear that Ukraine cannot currently afford market rates, and Adamov supported Zheleznogorsk Director Valery Lebedev’s policy of taking the waste at reduced rates.

At the end of last year Krasnoyarsk Governor Alexander Lebed banned shipments of spent fuel from Ukraine demanding that it pay $1000 per kg rather than the reduced price of $300 most of which was paid in goods. A trainload of waste stood on railway sidings for several weeks until Lebedev took it in despite Lebed’s ban, prompting Lebed to demand his replacement.

Lebed’s ban came after months of attempts to secure what he considers to be a fair income for the region from the waste business, during which it became clear that corruption rather than discount prices was the real problem. It has been claimed that millions of dollars have disappeared, siphoned off into the pockets of intermediary companies and into political campaign funds in both Russia and Ukraine.

Last August Lebed wrote to then Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin noting that the contract between Zheleznogorsk and Ukraine’s Energoatom is brokered through intermediaries. The Russians receive money and goods from Ukraine which pays no more than 15% in cash. The rest is in either unsecured promissory notes or in commodity supplies.

Lebed asked for the Ukraine intermediary to be replaced by the Krasnoyarsk Territory Gubernatorial Programmes Fund. Chernomyrdin passed on the request to Ukraine.

The Atomic Energy Ministry replied after a month, following Chernomyrdin’s replacement, and recommended that the government should not replace the intermediary, arguing that this would prevent Energoatom from paying Zheleznogorsk with electricity. Deputy Minister [of Atomic Energy] Lev Ryabev agreed, however, that the Gubernatorial Programmes Fund should also act as an intermediary. By November the Fund had still not been set up and nothing had changed, prompting Lebed to take drastic action and precipitate the crisis.

Ukraine to store own waste At present Lebed’s ban on waste shipments remains in force and no further trainloads have been sent. Zheleznogorsk now stands to lose the business completely, as Ukraine is planning to build facilities to store its own wastes before 2000, according to Energy Minister Oleksiy Sheberstov. The $91 million which Ukraine would have to pay Russia if Lebed’s demands are satisfied is only a little short of the $100 million which is needed to build a store, according to Ukrainian first deputy energy minister and head of the Ukrainian State Department for Nuclear Power Engineering, Mykola Umanets. Ukrainian officials also point out that the $500- $1000 per kg demanded by Lebed for Zheleznogorsk’s services is based on fees for reprocessing the waste. But the combine has no facilities for this and acts as a store – building of the planned RT-2 reprocessing facility was suspended in the 1980s for lack of cash.

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