State Dept Says No US-Origin Waste to go to Russia

NEWS RELEASE
NUCLEAR INFORMATION AND RESOURCE SERVICE
INSTITUTE FOR ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENTAL RESEARCH
ECODEFENSE!

For Immediate Release
March 22, 2001
Contact: Michael Mariotte, NIRS, 202.328.0002
Michele Boyd, IEER, 301.270.5500

STATE DEPARTMENT SAYS NO U.S.-ORIGIN NUCLEAR WASTE TO GO TO RUSSIA

The U.S. State Department says it will not allow high-level atomic waste of U.S. origin to be shipped to Russia because of Russia's nuclear power collaboration with Iran. The United States will not even consider allowing such imports unless Russia first ends that nuclear collaboration, the State Department said in a letter to environmental groups opposed to the plan. This position could put an end to plans by Russia's nuclear agency Minatom to import nuclear waste from other countries and use the profits to build new atomic power plants. It also would stop a different project led by a U.S. group, the Non-Proliferation Trust, which has also proposed importing high-level waste to Russia under NPT's management, and using the funds for clean-up of contaminated sites and other purposes.

In a March 14, 2001 letter to the Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS), Richard J.K. Stratford, Director of the State Department's Office of Nuclear Energy Affairs, said, "…[A]ny transfer to Russia of power reactor spent fuel subject to U.S. consent rights could only take place if the United States were to conclude an agreement for peaceful nuclear cooperation with the Russian Federation. We have not so far been willing to negotiate such an agreement, because of our longstanding concerns about Russian nuclear cooperation with Iran."

Stratford was writing in response to a letter signed by more than 150 organizations worldwide urging the U.S. to block any shipment of U.S.-origin atomic fuel to Russia. The letter was organized by NIRS, the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (IEER) and Russia's Ecodefense!.

Because most irradiated reactor fuel in the western world and Asia is either of U.S.-origin or irretrievably mixed-in with fuel of U.S.-origin, the State Department stance effectively rules out the Minatom Project. The project initially passed the Russian lower House of Parliament (Duma) in February, but a second reading was postponed today until at least late April.

The State Department promised that if the Russian situation with Iran should change, and Department consideration of an agreement with Russia were considered, a notice of any proposed decision would be published in the Federal Register, and environmental groups would be invited to meet with State Department officials.