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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Hungarian Nuclear Waste Barred

The Supreme Court on Tuesday handed a victory to environmentalists, striking down a government decision that allowed the import of nuclear waste from the Paks nuclear power plant in Hungary for storage in Russia.

Under a 1992 law, Russia imports spent fuel rods from Ukraine, Bulgaria, Slovakia and Hungary for reprocessing, but is required to return the waste to the countries for permanent storage.

Greenpeace, the For Nuclear Safety environmental movement and citizens of the Chelyabinsk region in the Urals Mountains filed suit against the government last year when they learned of a 1998 decision to allow nuclear waste from the Paks plant to be sent to Chelyabinsk for storage, said Yevgeny Usov, a spokesman for Greenpeace.

"The Nuclear Energy Ministry is selling Russia's territory for nuclear waste storage," Usov said.

Environmentalists have been up in arms about a law signed last summer that allows the import of spent nuclear fuel from other countries for reprocessing and storage.

According to the plan, spent fuel will be sent by train to a facility near Chelyabinsk for reprocessing. The recycling process extracts useable material from the spent rods while reducing their potential to be used in weapons, the Atomic Energy Ministry has said.

The plan's advocates say Russia could earn $20 billion over the next decade, importing some 22,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel. They say part of the money could be used to clean up existing nuclear pollution.

Yet environmentalists warn that with Russia's crumbling infrastructure and weak government, importing radioactive materials would be dangerous.