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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Rumyantsev Backs Plan to Import Nuclear Fuel

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Newly appointed Nuclear Power Minister Alexander Rumyantsev spoke in support of a widely criticized plan to import spent nuclear fuel for reprocessing that helped cost the job of his predecessor, according to a recently published interview.

"It will showcase Russia's technological potential and pave the way for new projects," Rumyantsev, who was appointed nuclear power minister late last month, was quoted by Izvestia on Friday as saying.

He also said a law permitting the imports of nuclear material is essential for Russia's efforts to export nuclear fuel. "If we want to sell this product to other countries, we must have a law that allows us to take back spent fuel rods."

The plan foresees importing about 20,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel over 20 years to Russia in special, armored train cars for reprocessing and long term storage.

Rumyantsev's predecessor, Yevgeny Adamov, strongly advocated the project, saying that Russia stands to earn $20 billion. He promised to spend $7 billion of the proceeds to clean up radiation spills in Russia and upgrade safety at existing reactors.

But environmentalists and other critics of the plan warned that it would turn Russia into a dumping ground for nuclear waste and accused Adamov of pursuing his own business interests in the deal. Adamov has denied the allegations.

Critics also said that there would be no money left to clean up the environment after funds are spent to build and maintain storage facilities.

Rumyantsev said the financial aspect of the plan needs more work. He also sought to allay critics' concerns that the ministry earnings from the deal could be misspent, saying that special panels would "track down every single dollar" of the proceeds.

The State Duma approved the bill in the first of three readings last December.