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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Environmentalists Protest Bill

Hundreds of environmental organizations have sent a letter to President Vladimir Putin urging him to veto a bill that allows the import of spent nuclear fuel into the country if it is passed by lawmakers.

But Putin left Tuesday for a skiing vacation without replying to Monday's appeal from the 650 Russian organizations.

"We haven't received any answer to our letter so far, but it is probably too early anyway," said Alexei Yablokov, a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences and an environmental adviser to former President Boris Yeltsin.

"We asked the president to veto the bill if the [State] Duma passes these amendments in two readings in one go March 22," Yablokov said, expressing the fear of many environmentalists that the Duma will rush the bill, which was approved in first reading earlier this year, through the final two hearings.

If the legislation is then passed by the Federation Council and signed into law by Putin, it will open the door to a $20 billion project by the Nuclear Power Ministry to import 20,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel from 14 countries for reprocessing or storage.

Monday's letter is a second attempt by environmentalists to attract attention to the pending legislation that they say will turn Russia into an international nuclear waste dump. The first bid was a national referendum of 2.5 million signatures against the bill. But the Central Elections Commission threw out the referendum after declaring several hundred of the signatures invalid.

Interestingly, the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear an appeal against the elections commission March 22, the same day the Duma is expected to vote on the nuclear bill.