Opposition to store at Chelyabinsk

29 October 1999

The local authorities in Russia’s Chelyabinsk region are opposing construction of a new spent fuel storage facility at the Mayak plant, although European and US representatives consider a dry storage option at Mayak as viable.

While Norway, Sweden and the Nordic Investment Bank are setting up a $50 million package for a new submarine spent fuel interim storage facility at the Mayak reprocessing plant, the local administration in Chelyabinsk says it will never be built. Vice-governor Gennady Podtyosov denies any knowledge of the proposal. Moscow and Nordic governments have discussed the facility for several years, but have not consulted the local authorities.

The Western Industrial Group of companies initiated plans to help MINATOM build the facility as a part of the work to remove spent fuel from the naval bases and laid up submarines on the Kola Peninsula. The present spent fuel store in Andreeva Bay is run-down and filled to capacity. Spent fuel is still held in more than 100 naval reactors on board submarines laid up at several bases and shipyards (See NEI, May p38).

The planned facility would have a capacity of 6000 spent fuel assemblies, which should be sufficient as the spent fuel will be reprocessed.

Interviewed by the Norwegian environmental group, Bellona, Chelyabinsk vice-governor Gennady Podtyosov was surprised when asked for his opinion on the planned storage.

“This plan has never been presented for the Governor before,” he said. “We are strongly against the construction.” Podtyosov says MINATOM and Western governments can discuss whatever they want but without the Governor’s signature the project will never materialise.

A similar view is taken by the State Committee on the Environment, which concluded in 1989 and 1991 that no additional nuclear storage facilities should be build at Mayak. To further complicate matters, there is still a disagreement over which technology should be applied. The Western Industrial Group insists on building a new dry store, which it claims will be cheaper, but MINATOM wants to complete a wet store, the construction of which started several years ago.

Several Western sources told Bellona a possible compromise could be to build a dry storage on the existing wet storage foundation. MINATOM has agreed to do a safety evaluation of this project.

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