The Mayak Chemical Combine’s licence for processing spent nuclear fuel, which expired on 31 December 2002, is still under review. The licence had been issued for only one year as an exception to the rules and in exchange for assurances that it would bring its activities in line with existing environmental standards.

Vitaly Sadovnikov, general director of Mayak Production Association (MPA), said regulator Gosatomnadzor (GAN) had refused to extend the licence for the radiochemical production facility (plant 235) on the grounds that the combine, in violation of Article 51 of the Federal Law On Environmental Protection, was continuing to discharge mid- and low-level radioactive waste into open reservoirs.

Andrei Kislov, chief of GAN’s fuel cycle plant department said: “Prolongation of the licence for the nuclear reprocessing plant is being coordinated with Minatom, the Environmental Agency, the Ministry of Healthcare, and GAN.” He added that the licence would be renewed after approval of some technological schemes of spent nuclear fuel reprocessing at the plant. Usually it would take several months, but the period will be shorter “due to the importance of Mayak operation for nuclear power plants, nuclear icebreakers and nuclear powered submarines.” For the time being, work has stopped only with respect to receiving and processing new spent fuel elements. Work has continued on those already being treated. All the other units at Mayak are functioning as usual.