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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Easing of Waste Law Promoted

Nuclear Power Minister Yevgeny Adamov said Wednesday he is pushing for a new law to ease ecological restrictions on importing spent nuclear fuel.

The Russian nuclear industry wants the new law to allow it to compete on the lucrative market for reprocessing and storage of waste and spent fuel from the world's nuclear power stations.

But importing spent nuclear fuel on a commercial basis has been controversial in Russia, where memories of the Chernobyl disaster are still strong.

Current Russian laws forbid the import of nuclear waste for reprocessing unless all radioactive material and waste generated during reprocessing is returned to the client country.

The Nuclear Power Ministry hopes to adjust the law in a way that would allow it to bring in fuel for storage and reprocessing without worrying about returning the radioactive materials.

Adamov said Wednesday that Russia should change its policy. "In general, I believe that this is the marketplace," he said at a news conference. "If our terms appear to be more attractive technologically or economically, we may see some of those who work with other industries switching to us."

Currently, Russia accepts spent fuel from Ukraine, Bulgaria and Hungary, despite protests from environmentalists. Last year, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin overruled an attempt by the State Committee on the Environment to bar spent fuel from Hungary.

Russia charges between $300 and $1000 for reprocessing each kilo of spent fuel, well below world prices mostly set by French and English firms.

On Monday, several anti-nuclear activists were arrested in front of the Nuclear Power Ministry's building in Moscow when they tried to protest delivery of Bulgarian waste to Russia.

Currently, Russia can reprocess spent fuel only from Soviet-built VVER-440 nuclear power stations and only at the Mayak nuclear complex near Chelyabinsk. Construction of a reprocessing plant near Krasnoyarsk capable of reprocessing fuel from more sophisticated reactors has been frozen since 1992 due to a lack of money.

Russia now receives types of fuel that it is not capable of processing and therefore places in long-term storage.

But Adamov hopes the extra money for reprocessing and long-term storage would speed up completion of the Krasnoyarsk plant. It could also pay for cleaning up Soviet-era nuclear disasters.