Australia - next Uranium exporter to Russia

Feature story - 20 June, 2008
June 20, 2008. Angarsk-Irkutsk-Moscow-St.Petersburg. Today representatives of the Baikal Ecological Wave, the Baikal Movement, Bellona, Greenpeace Russia, Ecodefense appealed to the Parliament of Australia with the demand not to ratify the treaty that will open way for the large-scale export of the Australian uranium to Russia.

Uranium hexafluoride containers on railway near St.Petersburg

In accordance with the Treaty, the cooperation "embraces the following lines of using atomic energy with peaceful purposes:…  geological and geophysical exploration, mining, production, subsequent processing and use of uranium resources". This means, that thousands of tons of uranium from Australia will be enriched on the territory of Russia, and the major part of the uranium will be stored in form of dangerous substance - uranium hexafluoride - on the country's territory. Thus the existing practice of importing foreign nuclear materials to Russia will be continued.

The text of the appeal is cited below:

In the following weeks the Parliament of Australia is to consider and solve the issue of <to be or not to be> for the intergovernmental Treaty between the Russian Federation and Australia on cooperation in the sphere of atomic energy use with peaceful purposes. The Treaty was signed in Sydney on September 7, 2007 by the head of the Federal Agency of Atomic Energy Sergey Kiriyenko and the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Australia Alexander Downer. The main aim of the document is to grant Russia the opportunity to enrich the natural uranium from Australia and use it both for the external and internal needs of the Russian nuclear complex.

The international uranium enrichment center is supposed to be established on the basis of the Angarsk electrolysis chemical industrial complex. At that the concern "Rosatom" - the main initiator of importing the foreign nuclear materials to Russia - has neither technological, nor economic facilities for the realization of such projects.

Fist of all, the system of uranium enrichment in Russia doesn't guarantee that uranium from Australia won't get into reactors of countries with unstable political regime - for instance, such as Iran. There are no physical facilities to "mark" the atoms of separate isotopes of uranium as  "Australian" ones, so the information about their origin will be lost after the first enrichment cycle stage.

For the period of many years the Netherlands have been supplying uranium for processing to the Russian Federation. At that the government of the Netherlands doesn't guarantee that the returned concentrated uranium is Dutch in origin. And this means that there is possibility that after processing the enterprises of "Rosatom" return the uranium in the composition of which uranium from other sources can be included.

Secondly, the system of uranium enrichment, in part of the ecologically significant information, is closed for the public. The ecological organizations have again made sure in that during the visit of the representatives of Bellona to Angarsk On June 18, 2008. By invitation of "Rosatom" the ecologists visited the Angarsk electrolysis chemical combine (AECC), but they were not permitted to perform the measurements of radiation and were not answered the questions about the treatment of the depleted uranium hexafluoride. For all the requests of the representatives of Bellona to show certain indices and sums, related to uranium enrichment and the utilization of depleted uranium hexafluoride the representatives of the industrial complex answered that "these are restricted figures".

Thirdly, thousands of tons of depleted uranium hexafluoride - an extremely dangerous toxic substance - will be annually formed as a result of Australian uranium concentration. At that in Russia there are no approved technologies for the large-scale conversion of uranium hexafluoride into a safe form, and there are no financial guarantees that this problem will be solved.

In the recent statement of the head of concern "Rosatom" S. Kiriyenko it's said about the scope of this problem. The matter concerns the fact that in case if the issue is not solved, "Rosatom" is even ready to refuse from the supplies of uranium from Western Europe.

Finally, in Russia there is no physical defense of the transported uranium.

The major part of Russia's population (92%) is against the projects of importing foreign materials for processing and storing. Another survey of ROMIR, conducted by order of Henry Bell Fund and Ecodefense in December of 2007 showed that 100% of the population of Primorskiy Krai province (through which the Australian uranium can be transported) are against importing of foreign nuclear materials through their region. In 2007  20 000 residents of Irkutsk province where AECC located appealed to the President of Russia with the demand to stop the supplies of uranium from Western Europe. The public confrontation to the of projects of importing foreign uranium from Western Europe is taking most tough forms.

In connection with that the public organizations are appealing to the Joint

Standing Committee on Treaties of House of Representatives of Australia related to the issues of international treaties with the appeal not to ratify the Treaty. Ecologists hope that Australia won't favor the destruction of the regime of non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, the violation of human rights in Russia and the establishment of another dangerous production in Russia, threatening the health and safety of population.

Contacts:

The Baikal Ecological Wave +7 95110134 64

Marina Rikhvanova, the Baikal Movement  +7 95110134 64

Rashid Alimov, Bellona,        +7-921-995-61-18  

Vladimir Chuprov Greenpeace Russia     +7-495-9887460,   +7-903-1294651

Vladimir Slivyak Ecodefense - +7-495-776-62-81, +7-903-299-75-84