Ecologists: 10,000 Tons Of Waste Headed for City
Published: September 26, 2008 (Issue # 1411)
Up to 10,000 tons of depleted uranium hexafluoride are expected to travel through St. Petersburg in the next six months, according to the local branch of the international environmental pressure group Bellona. The next cargo is expected to arrive in town in early October.
Arriving by sea, the radioactive material will then be sent by rail to the town of Novouralsk in Siberia for reprocessing and storage. Most of the cargo arrives in Russia from the Netherlands and Germany but Russia has signed contracts with India, Pakistan and China — states that are rapidly bolstering their nuclear programs — and looks set to receive even more spent nuclear fuel and uranium hexafluoride for reprocessing.
“Alarmingly, the trains that carry the hazardous cargo originate at the Avtovo railway station, very near residential areas,” said Rashid Alimov, head of Bellona’s St. Petersburg branch, at an environmental conference on nuclear safety this week. “Worse, as our investigations have shown, most of the locals in the area have absolutely no idea about the risks that they are regularly being exposed to as a result of the dangerous transfers.”
According to official sources, cargos containing depleted uranium hexafluoride arrive in the city on average ten times a month.
Alimov said radioactivity levels near the trains have significantly exceeded the norm on several occasions over the past year.
“For example, when we measured the levels in March 2008, our equipment showed 680 microroentgen per hour, which is a health- threatening level: the norm is less than ten percent of that amount,” Alimov said.
The environmentalists described “a cloud of secrecy” surrounding nuclear transportation.
“We are especially worried by the fact that Russian environmental groups are constantly denied any opportunity of an independent control and monitoring of the traffic,” Alimov said. “Despite numerous requests, officials have refused to inform us about rescue or clean-up plans that would be implemented should an accident happen.”
The authorities insist they are in full control and do not welcome any help from ecological groups.
Speaking at the conference earlier this week, Oleg Muratov, head of the public council of the Russian Atomic Energy Agency, said there has not been a single road accident involving radioactive materials during the history of its transportation in the country.Pages: