Radioactive Waste on Sale! Low Price!

Press release - 20 August, 2007
Moscow-Amsterdam, August 20, 2007. Today, Greenpeace has published the letter of JV “Techsnabexport”, the organization being responsible for international nuclear contracts in Russia, about purchase of depleted uranium hexafluoride (UF6) from URENCO Dutch company at price of USD 0.6 per kg. The representatives of the nuclear industry consider UF6 to be “valuable” raw materials for the energy industry, but such low price makes it doubtful. In the opinion of Greenpeace, this is one more confirmation that the UF6 export from Western Europe to Russia is nothing else but import of radioactive waste to Russia.

Greenpeace discovers uranium hexafluoride containers on railway near St.Petersburg

The natural uranium price on the world market reaches 260 USD per 1 kg, that is 430 times more expensive than UF6 which Russia buys in Western Europe. Upon the contracts having been in force since mid-90s, 150,000 tons of UF6 will be brought to Russia allegedly for additional enrichment. Western European UF6 will be added to 700,000 of domestic UF6 already accumulated and hundreds thousands of waste resulting from enrichment of Kazakh uranium which Rosatom plans to start in the nearest future in Angarsk. Therefore, by 2030, about 1,000,000 tons of UF6 will be accumulated in Russia.

Foreign uranium hexafluoride is shipped in Russia by sea, arriving to the port of St.Petersburg from where it is transported by railway to one of 4 destinations - Tomsk-7, Krasnoyarsk-45, Sverdlovsk-44 and Angarsk. According to the conclusion made by the Russian Federal Service for Ecological, Technical and Atomic Supervision (Rostekhnadzor), the UF6 storage conditions in Russia do not meet the safety requirements: metal tanks are prone to corrosion and can unseal.

Depleted uranium hexafluoride is an hazardous chemical compound. When being in contact with air, fluor comes in contact with air moisture producing a hydrofluoric acid which damages the lungs and the kidneys. Accidents with container leaking have already happened in the uranium industry history which led to persons' death. Russia does not have any industrial technologies for transferal of UF6 into a safe form (so-called defluorization or deconversion) yet. They can be launched only by 2010-2012 on the basis of equipment bought in France which has the capacity of 10,000 tons per year, and on the basis of domestic developments. Thereat, the cost of defluorization of uranium accumulated until 2030 can reach USD 1 bln. Taking into consideration that the Russian Agency of Nuclear Energy (Rosatom) has no financial mechanism for utilization and radioactive waste, the nuclear industry has and will have no money for it.

It is also important to mention that in April 2007 there was abolished the prohibition for "import of nuclear materials from other states for the purpose of storage" stipulated by the law "On Environmental Protection". According to this prohibition, contracts for UF6 import from Western Europe signed in 90s of the previous century had been illegal.

"It can be concluded that currently the mechanism for transforming Russia into a nuclear dump is being adjusted and perfected", - said Vladimir Chuprov, the Head of the Energy Department of Greenpeace Russia. - "The low price of the "valuable" raw materials for energy industry is about 60 cents per kilogram, like that for toilet paper, is one more confirmation that UF6 trade is trade with radioactive waste".

Contacts:    
in Moscow Vladimir Chuprov +7-495-6265045,
in Amsterdam Rianne Teule +31652062973