Natalia Mironova, the Chairman
Tatiana Mukhamediarova, a member
The Nuclear Policy of Russia and the Response of the Public.
The Nuclear Safety Movement
"Our lives are a reflection of the quality of our attention."
Lau-tzu's Tao Te Ching
I want to begin by saying "thank you" to Gensuikyo for the opportunity to participate in this conference.
We are here today because the suffering and pain did not end in Hiroshima and Nagasaki but is still going on in many places of Russia where people are exposed to the effects of nuclear production and we are afraid that soon everyone will learn that the plutonium economy, that Russia has decided to develop, has made millions suffer and has made our planet an impossible place to live on.
I live near the site where the first Russian nuclear and hydrogen bombs were produced. When I was a schoolgirl I took part in staging a performance about the victims of nuclear bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Some of us wept to the sound of the bell tolling about the victims and we didn't know that the bell was tolling for us. Only at the beginning of the 90s we got to know that we live in the dirtiest place on the Earth, and take part in a horrendous play, acting like guinea pigs for studying the effects of small doses of radiation. From 1949 to 1952 2.76 mln Cu of liquid radioactive wastes were discharged into the river Techa on the banks of which there were 39 villagers with 41.000 people. 270,000 more people were exposed to various doses of radiation due to the accident of 1957. In 1967 due to the fallout from Karachai 2700 square kms were contaminated and 124.000 people were irradiated.
People who are still living as the downwinders and the downstreamers of the military nuclear facility "Mayak" that was responsible for this contamination are told that their survival depends on the money Russia will get for storing and reprocessing imported spent fuel. These statements are made by nuclear departments, by local and federal authorities, that is by those very people who over many years never told the truth to the people who paid for the development of the Russian nuclear shield with the health of themselves and of their children. And what is more, our government is ready to place international nuclear waste storage on this land, worn out with suffering and at the same time, in Russia, there is no law on handling nuclear wastes.
In July, 4, 2001 the government of Russia agreed to import 20 000 tons of nuclear spent fuel and reprocess it into plutonium though almost 90% of the population were against it.
There are two ways to deal with plutonium: by converting it into mixed oxide (MOX) fuel and burning it in nuclear reactors or by immobilizing it by combining it with other high-level nuclear wastes and stabilizing it in a ceramic matrix.
The Russian Government has decided to choose the first way and is going to develop a plutonium economy.
The nuclear elite of Russia claims that they have the most advanced
technology, which is safe, and they want to earn money to rehabilitate
the contaminated areas. The price of the contract is 21 billion dollars
for 40 years. Last year 28 billion dollars escaped Russia. This problem
is not scientific or technological, it is political and the future of the
planet is at stake.
They say that the money from reselling plutonium as commercial energy if a market develops can be used for the safe disposal of nuclear wastes. The level of corruption in Russia is so high that the government can't find the money it transfers. What we can be sure of, is, that the money would be stolen and the wastes would remain and the victims would be left to deal with their health problems. Big policy is made with big money. But no one should be allowed to benefit financially from harming others.
As for the safe technology, the reality in Russia is such that now one
of our local NGOs is suing nuclear facility "Mayak" for using radioactive
waste dumps without a proper license to do so. And this is going
on at a time when the radioactive lens of underground water has been moving
90 meters a year and poses a great risk to the sources of drinking water
for Chelyabinsk with a population of 1,300 people.
They say that the risks are estimated, that the plutonium economy is effective. They haven't estimated the cost of the rehabilitation of the territory after the Chelyabinsk and Chernobyl accidents and nobody is accountable for the suffering of people. It was estimated that 1 billion, 300 million people have been killed, maimed or diseased by the nuclear industry since its inception.
They say that transportation of nuclear wastes is safe. But not in Russia now. Last month a train going from the Urals, arrived in Novosibirsk without a single roof. The roofs were stolen and sold as metal waste by people who couldn't earn money any other way.
The authorities try to convince us that millions of tons of nuclear wastes will do no harm to us and to those who will live after us. They try to convince that they have high technology. Their "high" technology includes placing radioactive wastes into the environment, which is absurd and unacceptable from the point of view of any modern environmental mind.
We are convinced and we claim that the suffering of thousands of people in Russia who have already felt the harmful effect of radiation will increase, and that the list of new accidents and new victims will increase. We want you to listen to the voices of those who were born, lived and grew up children in the zone of 3 nuclear accidents, under the on-going influence of the activity of nuclear production and whose lives in future will depend on numerous factors of high risk.
Taking into account the former sad experience of relations between state authorities and public in Russia we are sorry to admit that what is in future for us is policy of genocide against the nation.
We can't say that Russian people did nothing to fight this decision. The NGOs of Russia gathered 2.5 mln signatures against importing spent fuel (our NGO gathered 60.000). Nuclear Safety Movement sent 400 information packages to the State Duma members and in the second reading of the law there were 110 more votes against the law. We have gained good experience in negotiating with the Russian government and our regional Duma. Due to our efforts, after a public hearing, organized by our Movement, our regional Duma initiated a regional referendum on this issue. So the fight is not over yet.
What we are gravely concerned about now is that the main purpose of the plutonium economy is to coerce political and economic control and defend social privilege of the political and nuclear elite of Russia.
Why are we against the plutonium economy and the world storage of nuclear wastes in Russia? For the following reasons:
The amount of plutonium will increase.
There is no such thing as peaceful plutonium: it can be extracted from fuel rods and used for military purposes.
Reprocessing of spent fuel introduces new environmentally risky processes to the fuel cycle. All experts agree that reprocessing is a very dirty process.
All the above mentioned reasons are technological and scientific problems but there is also a very grave political aspect. In the Russian Parliament there are very many aggressive members who hope to obtain plutonium together with the imported spent fuel and use this plutonium as a tool of political blackmail.
So the political and nuclear elite of Russia has decided to develop a plutonium economy. It has neither the facilities nor the money to build it. Therefore Russia is prepared to provide permanent storage for the world's stockpile of nuclear wastes.
The world political and scientific communities have been trying to solve the problem of permanent storage for 25 years. The project of Yukka Mountain in the USA and the project of Pangea Resources have failed.
Now Russia is eager to allow its territory to be use. This idea poses even a greater risk to the whole world. The solution as to how to store the wastes hasn't been found yet.
Even the idea of storing all wastes in one place is doubtful. The safe transportation of wastes over the globe over a long period defies the laws of probability. Accidents do happen and even one plutonium accident is capable of damaging life on the whole planet.
Apart from the risk of transport, leakage, etc., a centralized dump
will discourage the states that produce the waste from taking responsibility
Russia today is the least suitable place for such permanent storage. The country has been going through political, economic and social crisis. Democracy hasn't been established yet. Corruption on all levels is very high.
The problems we face are not only the problems of Russia but are the
problems of the entire human community. Therefore, we call on the international
community to get united. We need help. We are addressing all of you
now. We, the people of Russia, need the help of everybody who is concerned
the safe future of the world. What is going on in Russia now can endanger world security.
We appeal to you to move against this plan and to address the governments of Eastern Europe, Taiwan, South Korea and Switzerland and force them to abandon their plans of transporting spent fuel to Russia for reprocessing.
We, the Nuclear Safety Movement have been dealing with nuclear safety problem for 12 years and have come to the conclusion that a Convention on the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons is essential and must become a pivotal point in our struggle for the safe future.
We appeal to all of you here to include in the Conference Resolution an address to the United Nations to begin and to promote the work on a Convention on the Prohibition and the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons.