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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Duma Approves Nuclear Waste Imports in 2nd Reading

Russia's lower house of parliament on Wednesday gave preliminary approval to a divisive proposal to earn money by importing other nations' spent nuclear fuel rods for processing and storage.

The State Duma passed the three-bill package on the second of three readings on votes of 230-116, 244-114, and 267-67, with 226 needed for passage. Bills take most of their final form on second reading.

Under the package, Russia would earn up to $20 million by importing 20,000 metric tons (22,000 short tons) of spent nuclear fuel over a 10-year period.

Opponents say the measure would make Russia a nuclear dump for the rest of the world. Supporters say that the money earned will enabled Russian to improve disposal practices.

The legislation specifies that 30 percent of the revenue must be used for cleanup, though opponents are skeptical the money will actually be used for that.

The nuclear waste imports bill was approved in December on first reading, but the Duma abruptly canceled the second reading last month amid an outcry from environmentalists, who accused Nuclear Power Minister Yevgeny Adamov of pursuing his own business interests in the deal.

Adamov was subsequently replaced in a Cabinet reshuffle.

Liberal Yabloko party leader Grigory Yavlinsky said on NTV television that lawmakers passed the bills "for money and privileges."

Other lawmakers said Russia should stick to the international practice of returning processed waste to the country where it originated.

"Leaving nuclear waste in the country should be prohibited by the law, and everybody who has approved the package today has voted for turning the country into a nuclear dumping site," said Sergei Mitrokhin, a Yabloko lawmaker.

But Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov said the measure was necessary to support a strategic industry. "These draft laws are being opposed by those who have ruined the national economy and the radio-electronic industry and are now trying to ruin our nuclear industry," Zyuganov was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.

The bills must pass a third reading, receive approval from the Federation Council upper house, and be signed by President Vladimir Putin in order to become law.