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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Nuclear Minister Backs Nikitin Charges

The nuclear power minister said he supports treason charges against a retired naval officer who spoke out against the dangers posed by the careless handling of nuclear waste.

The minister, Yevgeny Adamov, accused retired Captain Alexander Nikitin of gathering answers to "professionally styled intelligence questions" when he helped a Norwegian environmental group, the Bellona Foundation, compile a 1996 report on Russian nuclear waste.

Adamov made his remarks Monday during an interview with Ekho Moskvy radio.

The Bellona report focused on potential hazards caused by improper storage of radioactive waste by Russia's Northern Fleet.

Nikitin was charged with high treason and imprisoned for 10 months before being released last December amid international protests. But he has been charged again with treason and is awaiting trial in St. Petersburg.

"I claim with absolute certainty that 70 percent of the information Alexander Nikitin gathered for Bellona has nothing to do with ecology," Adamov said. "Captain Nikitin's materials are technological information about our military potential."

Both Nikitin and Bellona have denied any wrongdoing and insisted that the report served to highlight the potential dangers.

But Russia's Federal Security Service has said Nikitin failed to turn in his identity card after retiring, and used it to enter a St. Petersburg military facility where he read top secret files. It has accused him of copying parts of the documents and using them in the Bellona report.

Russian prosecutors have recently checked charges against Nikitin and ruled that they should stand.

Adamov also defended Russia's sale of nuclear power reactors to Iran and broached potential plans to construct a research reactor there. Gholamreza Aghazadeh, the head of Iran's nuclear agency, arrives in Moscow on Wednesday to discuss the sale of a Russian 1,000-megawatt civilian reactor and visit a Moscow institute that is training Iranian nuclear scientists.

The reactor deal has come under fire from the United States, which believes Iran will use the reactor to develop nuclear weapons.

Adamov said the nuclear technology being sold to Iran by Russia could not be used in a weapons program but said he believed Tehran was trying to become a nuclear military power.

"The reactor absolutely cannot be used for military purposes," said Adamov, reconfirmed in his job by Yeltsin last week after the recent changes in Russia's government.

"I am sure that Iran is trying to create a nuclear arsenal. It would be foolish to suppose that they do not want to create one," he added. Besides opposing the reactor project, the United States has accused some Russian scientists and companies of helping Iran develop long-range missiles.

Adamov said his ministry would work "aggressively" in world markets to promote sales of Russian nuclear products, which are proving a lucrative export for the cash-strapped country as it makes the painful transition to a market economy.

Adamov said Russia would discuss an increase in Iran's payments for the reactor. He refused to disclose the price.

He said Russia and Iran would not discuss Iran's desire to have Russia build a research reactor because that idea does not yet have government approval. Iran's government complained Tuesday that the construction of the power plant has fallen behind schedule.