Russian Atomic Energy Minister Alexander Rumyantsev, who took office six months ago, has dismissed First Deputy Minister Valentin Ivanov (responsible for the fuel cycle) and the heads of several key departments of the ministry including Vladimir Shidlovsky. The dismissals came amid allegations of corruption relating to shipments of nuclear spent fuel from Bulgaria. However, sources close to the ministry said the changes simply reflected Rumyantsev's desire to bring in his own people.
Revmir Fraishtut, president of Tekhsnabeksport (Tenex) also resigned. A Tenex shareholders meeting is to elect a new general director in February. In the meantime, St Petersburg entrepreneur Vladimir Smirnov has been filling in as acting general director.
Nikolay Shingarev, head of Minatom's public relations department denied that the resignation was linked with an announcement by the State Audit Chamber which concluded that Russia was facing a crisis in the storage and disposal of radwaste and spent nuclear fuel. He also dismissed suggestions that it was the result of complaints from environment protection organisations regarding the transport to Russia of spent nuclear fuel from Bulgarian Kozloduy nuclear plant. The Audit Chamber said that, over the past 50 years, Russia has accumulated waste with a combined radioactivity of more than 6 billion Curies that it does not have the capacity to store and nuclear storage facilities were on the verge of collapse due to a lack of government attention, funding and legislation. "Most of the storage facilities are nearly full, and the equipment is in need of urgent modernisation and repair," the chamber said. It said a 1996-2000 government programme for nuclear waste disposal received only 10.7% of the necessary funding. Funds had been misappropriated, the Chamber added and it will send a report of its investigation to both houses of parliament, the Cabinet, the Atomic Energy Ministry and the Finance Ministry.