European nuclear waste arrives in Russia

Press release - 7 December, 2005
At 18.00h, eleven Greenpeace activists on board three inflatables blocked the Russian cargo vessel 'Kapitan Kuroptev'. The ship is carrying nearly 1000 tonnes of toxic and radioactive uranium waste near Kronshtadt, some 30 km west of St. Petersburg, Russia. The Kuroptev crew used water hoses to deter the activists, in the subzero temperature the water turned quickly into ice, making continued protest impossible. The Kuroptev is now continuing its way to St. Petersburg’s harbour where it is expected to arrive around 20.00h local time.

Greenpeace activists in inflatables prevent the Russian cargo vessel 'Kapitan Kuroptev' from entering the port of St. Petersburg, Russia. The ship is carrying nearly 1000 tonnes of toxic and radioactive uranium waste near Kronshtadt, some 30 km west of St. Petersburg, Russia.

The shipment of uranium waste from European nuclear power companies (1) left the French port of le Havre on December 1st. Twenty Greenpeace activists delayed the loading of 87 containers filled with uranium waste on to Russian cargo vessel Kapitan Kuroptev. The uranium waste was produced at the French uranium enrichment plant at Pierrelatte, operated by state owned company Eurodif.

“The European nuclear power industry can't deal with its waste mountain so it started dumping some of it in Russia. This is illegal and highly dangerous,” said Vladimir Tchouprov of Greenpeace Russia. “The secretive nuclear industry is claiming that this is legitimate nuclear trade – but the reality is that only a small fraction, 10%, of this nuclear material is processed and sent back to Western Europe – almost all of the waste has been dumped in Russia.

In total, Greenpeace has collected evidence that over 100,000 tonnes of nuclear waste has been shipped to Russia during the last ten years. (2) Last week, industry officials confirmed Greenpeace's calculations that some 90% of the waste remains in Russia. (3) In addition to uranium waste from enrichment, contaminated and highly radiotoxic uranium produced during reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel has also been shipped to dumping sites in Russia.

After arrival in St Petersburg the uranium waste is due to be transported by rail for over 3,000 kilometers to nuclear sites in Siberia.

Some of Europe’s largest energy companies – EDF, EoN and Vatenfall – are guilty of nuclear waste dumping on a truly mammoth scale. This nuclear waste dumping trade exposes the industry’s cheap attempt to portrait itself as a producer of clean and climate friendly electricity. The reality is that nuclear power is dirty and expensive; it produces vast quantities of nuclear waste for which there is no safe solution. This is another illustration of the deep waste crisis the nuclear industry is facing globally and the ordinary citizen is left with the tax bill to pay for waste disposal,” concluded Tchouprov.

The dumping of all sorts of radioactive wastes in Russia, including highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel, is being promoted by both the Russian government and the IAEA. Greenpeace is opposed to all radioactive waste dumping in Russian and has written to the International Atomic Energy Agency's Director-General, Mohamed ElBaradei, asking him to end the agency's promotion of a Russian multilateral waste dump. (5)

Other contacts: Vladimir Tchuprov, Greenpeace Russia Nuclear Campaign in St. Petersburg +79031294651Jan Vande Putte, Greenpeace International Nuclear Campaign +31 646162005Frederic Marillier, Greenpeace France Nuclear Campaign +33 6 73 89 55 04

VVPR info: Video available from Michael Nagasaka, Greenpeace Video Desk + 31646166309Photos available from John Novis, Greenpeace Photo Desk + 31653819121

Notes: 1. European utilities dumping uranium wastes in Russia include: OKG – Sweden, Vattenfall – Sweden/Europe, EoN and RWE - Germany, Electrabel - Belgium, EPZ - the Netherlands, British Energy - the UK, EDF - France, Iberdola - Spain, and NOK/Swissnuclear – Switzerland.2. The uranium waste dumped in Russia over the last thirty years belongs to nearly every nuclear power company operating nuclear reactors in western Europe from Spain to Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Belgium. The UK and France have shipped the largest amount of uranium waste from their respective enrichment and reprocessing plants.3. Areva spokesman, Charles Hufnagel acknowledged to Nuclear Fuel of December 5th that the uranium shipped back to Eurodif (France) represents only “10% of the total” sent to Russia. An Areva spokesperson also confirmed to Nuclear Fuel that this uranium would remain the property of the Russian enricher, Techsnabexport (Tenex).4. Greenpeace Russia has filed a complaint against the illegal storage and dumping of uranium wastes in Siberia.Art. 48 of the 2002 law on 'environmental protection' prohibits storage or dumping of imported nuclear materials. A next session of the Moscow Court is scheduled for Dec. 8th.5. Greenpeace letter to to IAEA's Director-General Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei can be found here.The Real Face of the IAEA's Multilateral Nuclear Approaches: The proliferation of nuclear weapon material & environmental contamination report.