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Russian nuclear plant allegedly closes after US pressure
January 14, 2003

Russia's only nuclear reprocessing plant shut down at the beginning of the year due to pressure from the United States.

Quoting an official in the atomic energy ministry, the Russian ecology organization Ecodefense said Washington had promised to authorize the importing of its nuclear waste for stocking by Russia only if Moscow closed the Mayak plant near Chelyabinsk in the Urals region.

An official in the atomic energy ministry told AFP that the United States was afraid that the plutonium produced by nuclear waste reprocessing would be stolen from the Mayak plant.

He denied the closing resulted from US pressure but said, "the Americans would rather the Russians stock the imported nuclear waste than reprocess it."

"Russia will continue to reprocess nuclear waste," said the official, "and will not abandon plans to build a second plant, RT-2, in the Krasnoyarsk region, scheduled for completion in 2015."

The United States has 80 percent of the world's nuclear waste.

The Mayak plant had the capacity to reprocess 400 tonnes of nuclear waste a year.

The Russian parliament amended its environment law in June 2001 to authorize the importing of foreign nuclear waste for stocking or reprocessing, hoping the project would be bring about 20 billion dollars into its coffers in the next 10 years.

Russian ecologists have said the decision to import nuclear waste could turn the country into a nuclear garbage dump.

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