A train containing 41 tons of spent fuel in 96 containers from Kozloduy in Bulgaria has arrived at the Krasnoyarsk plant. The shipment is the first to be imported into Russia from abroad in accordance with the new laws on reprocessing spent fuel.

The shipment arrived without incident, despite earlier threats of disruption from environmental groups. The protesters demand that the Atomic Energy Ministry abandon negotiations with Bulgaria, Hungary and Slovakia on transporting spent fuel on the Trans-Siberian railroad across Krasnoyarsk Territory. The ministry argues that Russia is responsible for reprocessing the nuclear fuel it supplies to other countries and that it is profitable for Russia.

The reprocessed fuel will be returned to Kozloduy, along with the radioactive waste produced in the recycling process. 25% of revenue from the R25.7 million ($870,000) contract will be diverted to the Krasnoyarsk region’s budget. Valery Denisov, head of Russia’s nuclear regulator, Gosatomnadzor (GAN), said the spent fuel would be placed in storage, as reprocessing would not be possible within the next 40 years due to the lack of facilities.

First deputy atomic minister Valentin Ivanov said Russia is holding preliminary talks on spent fuel imports with Bulgaria, Slovakia and Hungary. However, “real” negotiations will start only after the government approves some further legislation. This will not happen before the third quarter of 2002. The first deals will involve fuel from Soviet-built reactors, such as the Kozloduy units. Russia may also start importing spent fuel from research reactors. The countries involved will be Yugoslavia, Uzbekistan, Czech Republic, Slovakia and the Baltic States. The imported spent fuel will be used to make new fuel for fast-neutron reactors which are planned to be constructed in 2040-2050. The new plants will operate on uranium-238 and thorium.
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