The goal of our work is to decrease the threat of new Chernobyl type accidents and prevent Russia from becoming an international radioactive dump. Threats created by the nuclear industry
Local and regional radioactive contamination
Results of scientific research of radiation effects on humans have led many scientists to conclusion about negative impact that radiation (even in small doses) causes in human organism. Radioactive influence occurs in the course of technological processes (reprocessing of nuclear fuel with dumping of low- and moderately-active wastes into the environment) and nuclear disasters.
Recently there have been many debates about dangers of such influence. For example, there're some scientific schools that don't ackonowledge negative effects of radiation in small doses. Among them are some people from the staff of the Ministry of Nuclear Energy (MinAtom). The ex-minister and his co-workers believe that 29 people died and 150 were diagnosed with radiation sickness as a result of the Chernobyl disaster. And all the others hundreds of thousands "liquidators" (rescue workers) who were exposed to smaller doses of radiation are absolutely healthy and the main reason for the high mortality rate among them are... mass-media and environmentalists, who, supercharging the social situation, push to suicide and high level of health-related risks among liquidators. The similar point of view was taken by some members of The State Duma. They think that radioactive materials, like nuclear fuel, may be kept in living rooms.
We won't go deeper into details about which "scientific schools" know better when compared to the others. The only thing that is certain for us: while the absolute safety of small doses of radiation, which however are higher than the natural level, isn't proven to be true, testing it on fellow citizens (even if they're MinAtom staff) is immoral.
Considering all of the above, we'd like to remind that we live in an open society. And the carriers of broken DNA endanger not only their own lives, but the lives of other people as well, increasing the negative genetical load in the entire society. The Ministry of Health have admitted that the level of deformity among children of the MinAtom staff is higher than the average level in Russia.
The most alarming fact is that the whole activity of the MinAtom is going uncontrolled. The population living in vicinity of the MinAtom's facilities still don't have access to full information about situation they're living in. let alone social aid in cases when the link between worsening health and radiation effects is proven.
The potential possibility of major disaster at a nuclear facility with consequences on the regional and international scale.
Right now there're no 100%-proven guaranties against the major nuclear disaster like Chernobyl. More than this, the possibility of such a disaster becomes even bigger if we consider the problem of international terrorism. Thus, the exercises that have been conducted on Russian nuclear facilities in the autumn of 2001 showed that it was quite easy to penetrate a facility, even reactor rooms. This situation can't be a pure chance, even if we consider existing levels of drugs abuse, alcoholism and crime, flourishing on the Russian nuclear plants. Just to give you an example: "In 1996 on the Leningradskaya nuclear power plant dozens of chemical protection devices and hundreds of metres of communication cable were stolen".
The international terrorism has reached a level when production of nuclear explosives or the so-called "dirty bombs" by terrorist groups or organizations supported by governments becomes more and more real. In this case the growth of nuclear industry increases the risk and possibilities for stealing and smuggling nuclear materials.
In these circumstances MinAtom is busy amending laws for its own benefit. The latest "gift" it presented was a new law about protection of the environment, which canceled all direct limitations on constructing nuclear plants. Before this, restrictions on such construction activities depended on population density, for example, but now it's possible to build a nuclear plant in any city center.
Production of spent nuclear fuel and radioactive wastes
Modern nuclear power production results in producing spent nuclear fuel and radioactive wastes that happen to be potential sources of radioactive contamination. Today there're about 200,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel accumulated in the world. Due to this fact, spent nuclear fuel and radioactive wastes (highly active wastes in particular) demand a long-term isolation from the environment - for a period of centuries and even millennia! What does it mean? That hundreds of generations will be forced to solve the costly problem of the safe spent fuel and radioactive wastes storage. And these wastes were produced during the last fifty years by only two generations.
Ways to solve the problem
The continuation of the MinAtom's activity, of which we're the witnesses, and especially implementation of its "promising" plans of the nuclear complex development are leading to growing contaminated areas, health risks, and endanger country's future population.
What MinAtom proposes is to enhance the number of nuclear objects (including nuclear plants), to increase the output of radio-chemical reprocessing facilities which deal with spent nuclear fuel, and so on. (Link to the Usov's article) And often it comes to absurd when MinAtom tries to prove that all the energetic crisis in the Primorsky region did happen because of nuclear plants' absence there. If one follows this conclusion then one has to buld nuclear plants urgently in every city's center.
That's why one of the main ways of solving the problem is (as a minimum) to facilitate a freeze on investing into new MinAtom's projects, which aren't connected to contaminated areas' rehabilitation.
Another threat is a plan of MinAtom for prolongation of the existing reactors' terms of service. There're many reactors in Russia, whose calculated term of service either comes to an end or has ended already. And instead of taking them out of service MinAtom proposes by its directive to "declare them new". Of course, reactors won't become new in effect after such a decision: everybody knows that the old technics break down quite often, and the difference lies in that that the old car threatens only its driver, while the old reactor threatens hundreds of thousands lives of unaware people. The prolongation of the old reactors' terms of service must be stopped.
In present time the main cause of all the problems related to the nuclear industry's activity is its unopen and uncontrolled character. Exactly that allows MinAtom to:
- lobby its decisions (imports of spent nuclear fuel, construction of new nuclear plants);
- convince the Government, mass-media and general public in economic effectiveness of the nuclear industry;
- build such a structure that makes possible a situation when the state and the tax-payers directly and indirectly to pay for the most dangerous and expensive stages of the nuclear fuel processing; It's necessary to achieve a rigorous governmental and public control over the MinAtom's activity. And, as a first step, to make MinAtom's cash-flow (that doesn't relate to the national defence) clear and transparent.
Today we face a situation when there's no available and known programme of rehabilitation of radioactively contaminated territories. MinAtom's still blaming X-rays diagnostic devises in all the cases of the radiation sickness. It even proposes to replace them with new devices after receiving a profit from import of 20,000 tons of the radioactive fuel (forgetting about even its own staff: thus, in according with MinAtom's statements there're no problems with its staff's health, and so there're no children's deformity, early deaths, women's sterility... none of it. However there's MinAtom's data that asserts quite a contrary facts, there's even a special federal programme...).
That's why it's a separate task to force MinAtom to finally begin the real rehabilitation of radioactively contaminated areas and the real work about increasing labour safety on the MinAtom's facilities and decreasing health risks in vicinity of those facilities.
Instead of afterword
So is nuclear energy really so critically essential? The world's leading scientists assert that the nuclear energy form the economic point of view is very ineffective. Its share in the general energy budget reaches only about 4%-4.5%. But the cost of the energy produced at nuclear plants is very high and raises fast (in comparison to other branches of power production industry). This fact can be explained by the necessity to utilize spent nuclear fuel and radioactive wastes. As a result, on the international level there's gradual decline in the use of nuclear energy, and its share in the world's energy budget decreases steadily.
The economic "effectiveness" of the nuclear energy production in Russia is being supported very easily: the tax-payers pay the biggest part of production through the budget, and then pay more for the energy consumed. Without subsidies from the state budget this branch of industry would go bankrupt in a moment. However it's possible to find a more appropriate application of the budget money, than supporting dangerous but not necessarily industry.