The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry Fukushima Chernobyl Mayak Three Mile Island Atomic Testing Radiation Isotope

Climate change continues to affect France’s nuclear power industry

EDF could extend Golfech nuclear power plant outage because of heatwave,


July 23, 2019 Posted by | climate change, France | Leave a comment

Swedish climate champion Greta Thunberg has received the first Freedom Prize in France

Greta Thunberg awarded first Normandy Freedom Prize

Teen climate activist Greta Thunberg wins France’s first Freedom Prize,  SBS News, A 16-year-old Swedish climate champion has received the first Freedom Prize in France, and has urged people to recognise the link between climate change and “mass migration, famine and war.”

Swedish teen climate change activist Greta Thunberg, whose Friday school strikes protesting government inaction over climate change helped spark a worldwide movement, has received the first Freedom Prize in France.

Flanked by two WWII veterans who sponsor the prize, the 16-year-old accepted the award at a ceremony in the northwestern city of Caen, Normandy, on Sunday.

“This prize is not only for me,” Greta said. “This is for the whole Fridays for Future movement because this we have achieved together.”

She said she would donate the AU$28,000 prize money to four organisations working for climate justice and helping areas already affected by climate change.

The prize was awarded before an audience of several hundred people and in the presence of several D-Day veterans, including France’s Leon Gautier and US native American Charles Norman Shay.

Greta said she had spent an unforgettable day with Mr Shay on Omaha Beach, one of the sites of the 1944 Normandy landings that launched the Allied offensive that helped end World War II.

Paying tribute to their sacrifice, she said: “the least we can do to honour them is to stop destroying that same world that Charles, Leon and their friends and colleagues fought so hard to save for us.”

Mr Shay said that young people should be prepared to “defend what they believe in.”………

She said the “link between climate and ecological emergency and mass migration, famine and war was still not clear to many people” and urged change.

The Freedom Prize was set up to honour the values embodied by the Normandy landings. Its winner is chosen by a worldwide online poll of respondents aged between 15 and 25……

July 23, 2019 Posted by | climate change, France | Leave a comment

UK Consumers face financial burden of future nuclear projects even before they are built

New UK nuclear plants could be paid for upfront through energy bills, Consumers face financial burden of future projects even before they are built, David Sheppard and Harry Dempsey, 22 July 19, 

 The UK government has thrown its backing behind proposals to finance new nuclear plants by having taxpayers pay upfront through their energy bills as it looks to reinvigorate a sector beset by cancellations and high costs. The consultation on the new financing model, which aims to lower overall costs by having consumers fund future nuclear projects before they are built, comes as the government targets cutting carbon emissions to net zero by 2050.

Half of all new nuclear projects planned in the UK have collapsed in the past year after failing to secure the necessary private financing, including Hitachi’s decision to suspend the £20bn Wylfa plant in north Wales and Toshiba’s cancellation of its development in Moorside, Cumbria. Seven of the UK’s eight existing nuclear plants are set to close by 2030.

But the proposal is likely to face criticism for loading risks on to consumers and the government at a time when renewable alternatives to nuclear like wind and solar are rapidly becoming cheaper. Boris Johnson, who is widely expected to become prime minister later this week, has in the past supported nuclear projects but also criticised their high costs.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, which is launching a three-month consultation on the proposals, said it believed the new financing model had the “potential to reduce the cost of raising private finance . . . thereby reducing consumer bills”.

France’s state-backed EDF Energy has been a vocal champion for the proposed model, known as Regulated Asset Base or RAB, after the cost of its Hinkley Point project in Somerset was heavily criticised for its cost to consumers.

BEIS said using an RAB model for future projects was suitable as companies such as EDF would look to replicate the Hinkley Point design in future plants. EDF said on Monday that its proposed Sizewell C plant would be a “near replica” and therefore “cheaper to construct and finance”. …..

Greenpeace UK’s chief scientist Doug Parr criticised the proposal saying it would shift liabilities from private investors to taxpayers. “The nuclear industry has gone in just 10 years from saying they need no subsidies to asking bill payers to fork out for expensive power plants that don’t even exist yet, and may never,” Mr Parr said.

The government is expected to release its highly anticipated energy white paper in summer, which will indicate future electricity generation plans, with the UK’s 2013 energy strategy widely seen as defunct due to the faltering nuclear projects.

July 23, 2019 Posted by | business and costs, politics, UK | Leave a comment



BÜCHEL, Germany — Eleven international peace activists entered the Büchel Air Base southwest of Frankfurt early this morning to deliver what they called a “Treaty Enforcement Order” declaring that the sharing of US nuclear weapons at the base is a “criminal conspiracy to commit war crimes.”

Upon entering the base’s main gate with a printed “cease and desist order,” they insisted on seeing the base commander to deliver the order in person.

“We refuse to be complicit in this crime,” said Brian Terrell of Voices for Creative Nonviolence in Chicago, Illinois. “We call for the nuclear bombs to be returned to the US immediately. The Germans want these nuclear weapons out of Germany, and so do we.”

The group included people from Germany, The Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States. All eleven were detained by military and civilian authorities and were released after providing identification. This is the third year in a row that a delegation of US peace activists has joined Europeans and others in protesting the US nuclear weapons at Büchel. The local group Nonviolent Action for Abolition of Nuclear Weapons (GAAA) convenes the International Action Week, demanding permanent ouster of the US nuclear weapons, cancellation of plans to replace today’s B61s with new hydrogen bombs, and Germany’s ratification of the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

“Delivery of the ‘Cease and Desist Order’ is an act of crime prevention,” said John LaForge, of the US peace group Nukewatch and coordinator of the US delegation. “The authorities think the entry is a matter of trespass. But these nuclear bomb threats violate the UN Charter, the Treaty on Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons, and the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.” he said, adding, “Interrupting government criminality is a duty of responsible citizenship.”The activists included: (from the United States) Susan Crane, Richard Bishop, Andrew Lanier, Jr., Brian Terrell, Ralph Hutchison, and Dennis DuVall; (from the UK) Richard Barnard; (from The Netherlands) Margriet Bos, and Susan van der Hijden; and (from Germany) Dietrich Gerstner, and Birke Kleinwächter.

Susan van der Hijden of Amsterdam, who is just back from the US where she visited the Kansas City, Kansas site of a factory working on parts of the new replacement bomb, known as the B61-12. “The planning and training to use the US H-bombs that goes on at Büchel cannot be legal, because organizing mass destruction has been a criminal act since the Nuremberg Trials after WWII,” van der Hijden said.

July 23, 2019 Posted by | Germany, opposition to nuclear, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Vladimir Shevchenko – heroic photographer of Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe

I watched the “Chernobyl” miniseries, and I was struck by the accuracy. The scene on the roof of the reactor as depicted in the fictional episode, was accurate in so much detail, compared to  the 1986 real film.

The Soviet film maker who filmed his own death at Chernobyl

There were many who risked their lives after the Chernobyl disaster — but none more so than a man desperate to show the world what happened,   LJ Charleston,  21 July 19  When Soviet filmmaker Vladimir Shevchenko took his camera onto the roof of Chernobyl’s reactor four in the aftermath of the fatal explosion, he had no idea he was right in the middle of what was — in April 1986 — the most dangerous place on earth.

He also had no idea that his chilling documentary Chernobyl: Chronicle of Difficult Weeks, about the clean-up of the radioactive material at Chernobyl, would be his very last.

He died of acute radiation sickness a year later.

The award-winning film director, who was working for Ukrainian TV at the time, was said to have been quite unaware of the dangers he was putting himself in when he agreed to film from the roof next to reactor four.  

He’d been hired to film in the exclusion zone. But his gravest error was agreeing — along with two assistants — to climb up to the most lethal area of all, just days after one of the worst man-made disasters of all time.

Even 33 years after the explosion, Shevchenko’s film is still an eerie reminder of the sacrifices made by those who risked their lives in the clean-up efforts at Chernobyl.

Today, as the world focuses once again on those events due to HBO’s series Chernobyl, it’s worthwhile putting the spotlight on the courageous Shevchenko.

He gave his life so that we could see with our own eyes what went on during the clean-up. It was, at times, incredibly basic and put so many lives at risk.

And, by doing so, Shevchenko was unknowingly filming his own death……

Shevchenko, who was the first and only film maker allowed on location in the exclusion zone of Chernobyl, is best known for Chernobyl — Chronicle of Difficult Weeks. You can watch the full cut of his film here.

The film is entirely in Russian, although it’s believed people are currently working on English subtitles. It includes interviews with beleaguered scientist Valery Legasov, now famous due to the HBO series in which he’s played by Jared Harris.

Legasov committed suicide two years after the disaster, on the anniversary, due to the horror of his experiences and the lies he had to tell the International Atomic Agency in Vienna to cover up Soviet mishandling of the event.

Shevchenko’s footage of Chernobyl has not been widely seen and the fact he lost his life a year after the explosion has been completely obscured, as his name isn’t listed on official records of deaths. At the time, his two assistants were receiving hospital treatment, but there is no word of what became of them.

Sydney archaeologist Mr Robert Maxwell, the only archaeologist who has worked in Chernobyl across two field excursions, told Shevchenko was well-respected and trusted to film the clean-up efforts, as it was such a highly sensitive time for the Soviets.

“He was granted permission to film the clean-up, including the incredibly dangerous work of the ‘biobots’,” Mr Maxwell said, referring to the name given to the workers sent in to clean up……..


One of the most memorable and unbelievable scenes in the TV series Chernobylfeatures liquidation workers on the roof, using shovels to throw highly radioactive material back into the core.

If it wasn’t for Shevchenko’s 1986 footage, we would not know that this happened. The men could only work in frantic 90 second shifts; any longer and their exposure to the radiation would be fatal.

What makes the footage so compelling is that we can clearly see some men picking up the radioactive graphite with gloved hands. We also see Shevchenko filming from the roof top, wearing only a flimsy mask and cap for protection. Then we can see how badly damaged the footage is as the radiation makes an impact on the film itself.

It’s harrowing to see how much work the men are doing with their hands.

This is Shevchenko’s footage focusing on the rooftop clean-up.

Chernobyl. Cleaning the roofs. Soldiers (reservists). 1986.

July 22, 2019 Posted by | media, Resources -audiovicual, Ukraine | Leave a comment

Hinkley Pt nuclear station’s cooling system will mean massacres of fish

July 22, 2019 Posted by | environment, technology, UK | Leave a comment

UK: Camden’s Citizens Assembly works on climate change action

Guardian 19th July 2019 Britain’s first climate “citizens assembly” opened its final session
on Saturday morning at which more than 50 Londoners will decide on
carbon-cutting measures they want their district to enact in order to
confront climate change.
Camden’s Citizens Assembly, convened to
interrogate what locals, neighbourhoods and the council can do for the
environment, is deliberating action that would reduce fossil fuel usage in
homes and public buildings and on roads. The wishlist will be considered by
the council as it draws up an environment action plan for 2020.
The outcome
of the assembly will be closely watched by other councils planning to
follow suit this year, and by Westminster which will hold its own national
climate assembly in the autumn. Council officials say there is a clear
intention to implement at least some of the recommendations.
“I hope
there will be some concrete action that we can take forward as a
council,” said Georgia Gould, the council leader. “That’s the idea of
it being an open process – you are letting go of that control. Our
climate is in a crisis and we need to act in radical new ways and this
assembly is part of developing those new ideas.”
Ideas being considered
include community energy projects such as solar panels on schools, GP
surgeries and public buildings, a revolution in heating buildings that
favours air source heat pumps over old-style gas boilers, better insulation
and urban greening.

July 22, 2019 Posted by | climate change, UK | Leave a comment

Great Britain GB electricity system operator – demand-side response (DSR) is more reliable than nuclear power

The Energyst 18th July 2019 The GB electricity system operator has suggested demand-side response (DSR) is more reliable than nuclear power in its latest Capacity Market auction
guidelines. National Grid ESO has given DSR a de-rating factor of 86 per
cent, while nuclear is de-rated to 81 per cent.

DSR is also deemed to be
marginally more reliable than biomass, coal and most interconnectors, per
the guidelines. Industry participants suggested the move reflected the
expertise of DSR providers in managing their portfolios. “Presumably [the
de-rating factors] reflects recent reliability of the UK nuclear fleet, and
superior performance of aggregators in delivering contracted response,”
wrote Jon Ferris, strategy director at energy blockchain firm Electron.

His comments were welcomed by the Association for Decentralised Energy.

July 22, 2019 Posted by | ENERGY, UK | Leave a comment

World security needs nuclear New Start agreement – USA-Russia, not a distraction about China


July 20, 2019 Posted by | China, politics international, Russia, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Doubts on the safety of Ukraine’s nuclear reactors

experts are still studying the cancerous, continent-spanning impact of the 1986 meltdown, which took place just outside the small town of Prypyat, some 150 kilometers north of Kyiv, and belched billions of radioactive particles into the wind.

In Ukraine alone, nearly two million people are estimated to have been victims in some way of the disaster, caused by cost-cutting and negligence. The Ukrainian government pays the price today: in compensation to the families of at least 35,000 people who died of Chornobyl related cancers. Across Ukraine, Belarus and Russia, fatality estimates reach into the hundreds of thousands

A major complaint is that Energoatom’s environmental impact assessments are unconvincing. Safety and security are insufficiently addressed, waste disposal is barely mentioned and plans to mitigate risks are severely lacking in detail..

Ukraine’s nuclear power disasters may not be over, experts warn, Kyiv Post, By Jack Laurenson. July 19 2019

Ukrainian nuclear power plants (NPPs) score poorly on security and are failing to meet some important International Atomic Energy Agency safety requirements. At the Khmelnytsky NPP, the planned addition of two extra reactors (supplied by a controversial, Kremlin-linked company) will go ahead, despite the strong concerns.

After more than three decades in the shadow of the Chornobyl catastrophe — the world’s worst nuclear energy-related disaster — Ukrainians continue to live with nuclear power plants as part of their country’s landscape. A whopping 15 reactors power their towns and cities, while Ukraine’s total installed capacity makes it the seventh-largest nuclear nation in the world today.

At the same time, experts are still studying the cancerous, continent-spanning impact of the 1986 meltdown, which took place just outside the small town of Prypyat, some 150 kilometers north of Kyiv, and belched billions of radioactive particles into the wind.

In Ukraine alone, nearly two million people are estimated to have been victims in some way of the disaster, caused by cost-cutting and negligence. The Ukrainian government pays the price today: in compensation to the families of at least 35,000 people who died of Chornobyl related cancers. Across Ukraine, Belarus and Russia, fatality estimates reach into the hundreds of thousands.

Only two nuclear energy-related disasters have been rated at the maximum severity available on the International Nuclear Event Scale: the Chornobyl explosion, and the meltdowns that shook Japan and the world during the 2011 Fukushima disaster. There, some 170,000 evacuees still cannot return to their irradiated homes in the exclusion zone.

Today in Ukraine, difficult questions linger. Have the painful lessons of Chornobyl and Fukushima been learned, and can a country struggling with war, corruption and political turmoil guarantee the safety of its nuclear infrastructure?

Safety, security lacking

These days, at least 55 percent of all Ukrainian electricity comes from its 15 fission reactors, operating at four different nuclear power plants, or NPPs, around the country. They are all operated by the state-owned National Nuclear Energy Generating Company of Ukraine, widely known as Energoatom.

These nuclear reactors in Ukraine are still not as safe and secure as they could be. They are vulnerable to external shocks, internal sabotage, cybersecurity threats and terrorism, according to shortcomings identified in expert assessments.

Ukraine scored poorly in a 2018 security index published by the Nuclear Threat Initiative organization, scoring 70 out of 100 points, ranking it 30th out of the 45 countries indexed.

The most recent overall safety assessment of all Ukrainian NPPs, completed in 2010 by the International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, and the European Commission, found that Ukrainian plants were non-compliant with 22 out of 194 vital safety requirements. Weak areas included the “consideration of severe accidents, NPP seismic resistance, completeness of deterministic safety analysis, and post-accident monitoring.”

The National Ecological Center of Ukraine, or NECU, and other nongovernmental organizations here warn that nine Ukrainian nuclear reactors are currently operating beyond their safe lifespan, on the basis of 10-year lifetime extension permits granted following an assessment they have labelled as “deeply flawed.”

And now, in Khmelnytsky Oblast, scientists, experts and campaigners are starting to raise their voices in protest at the latest and perhaps most serious concern.

Experts say that two new reactors which are planned to go into operation there have serious, known safety flaws and do not meet modern safety standards, widely adopted following lessons learned from the Fukushima disaster in Japan eight years ago………..

Khmelnytsky expansion

On May 16, a senior official with an Austrian government ministry taking part in talks on the Khmelnytsky project, contacted the Kyiv Post to express concern over its feasibility and safety. The official asked not to be named for fear of jeopardizing talks with Ukrainian counterparts, but shared an official report with the Kyiv Post that makes for alarming reading.

The 87-page report from Austria’s environment agency was commissioned by the country’s Federal Ministry of Sustainability and Tourism. Its lead authors are two Austrian scientists — Oda Becker, a physicist specializing in nuclear safety, and Gabriele Mraz, an expert on nuclear policy.

A major complaint is that Energoatom’s environmental impact assessments are unconvincing. Safety and security are insufficiently addressed, waste disposal is barely mentioned and plans to mitigate risks are severely lacking in detail.

And Energoatom’s plan to simply “continue” construction of facilities that would house KhNPP 3&4 is unthinkable, because the partially-finished constructions have been largely abandoned for nearly three decades and are no longer suitable, the report’s authors said.

“I was surprised that (KhNPP 3&4) was restarted…the site is in ruins… nothing has been done to protect the construction and the conditions there,” the official said.

The official asked how anyone can “think of using this ruin to build a nuclear power plant,” considering that the site and components had been exposed to ice, snow and rain over the years.

The experts also voiced concerns over the shady choice of supplier for the two new reactors.

Energoatom has selected a type of Russian-built reactor from the Czech-based (but ultimately Russian-owned) company Škoda JS. The reactor is cheap and fits within the existing, partially abandoned buildings, but features a number of known safety deficiencies, according to experts.

“They wanted a cheaper reactor — but this reactor is not considered good enough and it lacks safety features that have become required after what we learned since Fukushima,” the official said.

The Kyiv Post repeatedly tried to speak with Energoatom about its plans for the Khmelnytsky NPP, but the agency was uncooperative. Ultimately, Energoatom did not provide information or answer questions by deadline.Unanswered questions

In the report from Vienna seen by the Kyiv Post, the Austrian environment agency poses at least 89 separate questions to Energoatom which it said had so far gone unanswered. Some questions are highly technical, while others address issues of basic safety and security. The authors state that the Ukrainian side has not responded to many questions, or have provided materials that are insufficient and do not address their concerns.

Questions relating to the proposed choice of a reactor, a VVER‑1000/V‑320, and its safety deficiencies, are raised repeatedly. It states that the Ukrainian side has not sufficiently demonstrated how it will cope with any of the “known safety issues” of the reactors………

July 20, 2019 Posted by | safety, Ukraine | Leave a comment

Secret Locations of U.S. nuclear weapons in Europe revealed

Leaked NATO report reveals where USA is hiding SIX nuclear weapons – and they’re in EUROPE

THE SECRET locations of US nuclear weapons in Europe were been accidentally revealed in a NATO-affiliated report.  By KATE WHITFIELD, , Jul 19, 2019    The document was titled “A new era for nuclear deterrence? Modernisation, arms control and allied nuclear forces”. It was first published in April and written by a Canadian senator for the Defense and Security Committee of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. The document, which has now been deleted, seems to confirm long-held suspicions that US nuclear weapons are being stored in Europe.

The document referred to the sites of roughly 150 American nuclear weapons.

Locations in Belgium, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Turkey were identified.

The report was seen by Belgian newspaper De Morgen, which said: “These bombs are stored at six US and European bases — Kleine Brogel in Belgium, Büchel in Germany, Aviano and Ghedi-Torre in Italy, Volkel in The Netherlands, and Incirlik in Turkey.”

The document did not attribute this information to any source.

In the final version of the document, published last week, the reference was removed.

The latest version of the report instead makes reference to aircraft capable of carrying nuclear weapons.

The report says: “The European Allies often cited as operating such aircraft are Belgium, Germany, Italy, The Netherlands, and Turkey.”

A NATO official told The Washington Post the report was “not an official Nato document” and pointed out that it was written by the alliance’s parliamentary assembly.

The official added: “We do not comment on the details of Nato’s nuclear posture.”

While the storage of US nuclear weapons has long been suspected, many are viewing this as confirmation.

De Morgen’s report was headlined: “Finally in black and white: There are American nuclear weapons in Belgium.”

And Dutch broadcaster RTL News said: “NATO reveals the Netherlands’ worst-kept secret.”

Kingston Reif, director for disarmament and threat-reduction policy at the Arms Control Association, said the presence of US nuclear weapons in Europe was “no surprise”.

He added: “This has long been fairly open knowledge.”

The presence of the weapons resulted from an agreement reached in the 1960s and is thought to be a relic of the Cold War era.

But in recent years, fears have grown over whether parts of the continent, such as Turkey, are the best place to store them in the wake of terrorist extremism in the region.

How many nuclear weapons does the USA have?

The US was the first country to manufacture nuclear weapons and, to date, is the only country to have used them in combat – in the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings in World War II.

Since 1945, the United States produced more than 70,000 nuclear warheads – more than all other nuclear states combined.

At its peak in 1967, the US military had a stockpile of 31,255 warheads.

Now, the most recent figures suggest the US has an estimated 4,018 nuclear weapons in either deployment or storage.

July 20, 2019 Posted by | EUROPE, secrets,lies and civil liberties, weapons and war | Leave a comment

For the second time in a week, take-down of Russian nuclear reactors, due to malfunction

July 20, 2019 Posted by | Russia, safety | Leave a comment

Uncertainty over safety of Russia’s floating nuclear power plants

July 20, 2019 Posted by | Russia, safety | Leave a comment

France’s nuclear reactors impacted by latest heat wave

Latest hot spell set to deepen drought pain in France, Saudi Gazette, July 17, 2019 

 Hot weather in France next week is expected to prolong drought conditions that have impacted several sectors including nuclear power generation and farming, and led to restrictions on water use in 61 administrative regions.French meteorological services expect very hot and dry weather next week, with a slight risk of a heatwave in the southeastern part of the country. This comes after a hot spell set record temperatures at the end of June.

The hot weather and lack of rainfall throughout the year have led to very low levels of groundwater, which contributes to the volume and flow of rivers, said Violaine Bault, hydrologist at French Geological Survey BRGM.

When groundwater decreases and there is no rainfall, rivers dry up.

The situation was more critical in the Loire, Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes and Burgundy regions in central and eastern France. The Rhone River has been severely impacted. There has been very little rainfall in the region over the past three winters, Bault said.

French state-controlled utility EDF said on Tuesday that due to flow forecasts for the Rhone river, electricity generation could be restricted at its Bugey, St-Alban and Tricastin nuclear power plants from Saturday, July 20.

The nuclear plants, with a combined capacity of around 10,800 megawatts, use water from the river as coolant.

EDF’s use of water is regulated by law to protect plant and animal life. It is obliged to reduce output during hot weather when water temperatures rise, or when river levels and the flow rate are low.

The company said two nuclear reactors at the St. Alban plant and one at Bugey could be impacted over the weekend, but production losses are expected to be lower from Monday………

July 18, 2019 Posted by | climate change, France | Leave a comment

Moscow’s Polymetals Plant’s slag heap – an intractable radioactive hazard=- could become Moscow’s Chernobyl?

Will a Road Through a Nuclear Dumping Ground Result in ‘Moscow’s Chernobyl’?

Activists warn that construction will release radioactive dust into the air and the Moscow River.  By Evan Gershkovich, July 16, 2019

When Yelena Ageyeva moved to the Moskvorechye-Saburovo neighborhood in southeastern Moscow in 1987, she was aware that there was a radioactive site across the railroad tracks from her apartment building. 

They calmed us down by saying that it was all buried under soil and so we had nothing to worry about,” said the 59-year-old pensioner on a recent evening at the commuter rail station adjacent to the site. “We lived in peace all these years.” 

The site, the Moscow Polymetals Plant’s slag heap, contains tens of thousands of tons of radioactive waste left over after the extraction of thorium and uranium from ore. The factory ceased production of metals in 1996 for “environmental reasons,” according to its website — it now produces weapons and military equipment — and the dump is now a hill half a kilometer wide sloping down to the banks of the Moscow River. 

City officials had been considering a full-scale clean-up for years, but never rubber-stamped a plan due to the risky location of the site near a source of water for Moscow’s southern suburbs. 

Now residents of nearby neighborhoods say new plans for an eight-lane highway across the southern band of the city that will pass next to the site have eclipsed environmental and health concerns. They warn that the construction will unleash the buried radioactive materials into the river at the bottom of the hill and the air that the city’s 12 million residents will breathe.

A legacy of a rushed Soviet effort to begin nuclear research as the race to build an atomic bomb gained steam in the 1930s, the hill is one of many contaminated sites across Russia — some of which are smack bang in the middle of the country’s capital and most populated city, where research first began at the Kurchatov Institute.

Just 13 kilometers from the Kremlin and steps from Kolomenskoye Park, a popular spot for Muscovites to ski in winter and picnic in summer, the Moskvorechye-Saburovo hill is the most contaminated of the bunch, according to Radon, a government agency tasked with locating and clearing radioactive waste.

Operations in such an environment are a serious engineering challenge — one incautious step, and radioactive soil gets into the river,” said Alexander Barinov, Radon’s chief engineer for Moscow, when asked about the site in a 2006 interview. 

Full decontamination by removing all of the radioactive waste is simply impossible,” he added, noting that Radon every year conducts “a kind of therapy” to ensure the site’s safety — in short, dumping dirt on top of the waste to keep it buried after topsoil runoff each spring. 

The alternative is to assign this territory a special status and impose restrictions on its use, but the city authorities keep postponing this decision.”

More than a decade later, the authorities have apparently postponed that decision indefinitely. According to activists and local politicians, city officials are pretending the problem doesn’t exist at all. 

I believe the authorities know full well the risks,” said Pavel Tarasov, a Communist Party municipal deputy representing the Lefortovo neighborhood. “But it’s a lot easier to steal state budget funds allocated to construction than to clean up radioactive waste.” 

Officials last fall started to push ahead with plans to build the new highway. In November, they began holding public hearings in neighborhoods through which the road will pass, including those around the radioactive site. Activists say officials didn’t mention that the hill holds radioactive waste during those hearings.

We’ve been well aware that there was radioactive waste here for a long time,” said Andrei Ozharovsky, a specialist with the radioactive waste safety program of the country-wide Social-Ecological Union non-profit organization, during a recent tour of the site. 

Ozharovsky, who in 1989 graduated from the National Research Nuclear University, located within walking distance of the plant, said he studied under a professor who used to be its former director and would mention the waste left there in lectures.

That information was not exclusive to nuclear scientists. In 2011, the popular state-run Rossia 1 television channel toured the site. “The radiation there exceeds the permissible level by tens of times,” a broadcaster said on air.

With the information out in the open, it wasn’t long until activists began to raise concerns on social media after the public hearings began last year. As anxiety swelled, local residents and municipal deputies demanded that the authorities conduct a safety test. In April, specialists from Radon and the Emergency Situations Ministry measured a rate two hundred times higher than the norm.

In the weeks since, officials have attempted to placate concerns by noting that construction won’t actually touch the radioactive parts of the site but just pass nearby — 50 meters away, to be exact. In a statement released Thursday, Radon called the reactions by local public figures “extremely emotional.”

A day earlier, Greenpeace Russia had released a statement demanding that construction be halted. 

Once trucks start driving near the site, the topsoil will slide and the radioactive dust will be released,” said Rashid Alimov, the director of the organization’s energy program, noting that the April examination didn’t dig deep enough to determine the danger level of the waste beneath. 

If radioactive dust gets into people’s lungs, it can increase the likelihood of cancer,” he added.

That worry has hit close to home for Katya Maximova, 32, who lives across the river from the site. When the Chernobyl reactor exploded in 1986, the year before she was born, her aunt lived in Ponyri, a village in Russia’s southern Kursk region about 500 kilometers away. The aunt believes the tragedy killed off almost everyone in the village over the next decade.

Pretty much everyone got cancer within the next five to 10 years,” Maximova said.

Maximova, who has been a driving force behind the social media campaign to raise awareness about the Polymetals Plant hill, criticized the authorities for withholding information from the public and not attempting to understand the full picture in the first place. 

We’re not specialists so it’s hard to know what’s true,” she said. “We’re not against the authorities or against the construction. What we want is a full-scale examination first.” 

A public hearing at the State Duma is scheduled for Wednesday morning, but Maximova said construction of the highway has already started on her side of the river. 

We have a long history of tragedies due to negligence,” she said, noting Chernobyl and last year’s fire at the Winter Cherry Mall in the Siberian city of Kemerovo that killed more than 60 people, many of them children. “These are preventable tragedies.”

Maximova has recruited others to help with the social campaign, including her friend Ruslana Lugovaya. Thinking about what could happen frightens Lugovaya, so she is allaying her fears by focusing on the work, with a dab of dark humor.

Why go visit Chernobyl when we have our own Chernobyl right here in Moscow?” she said. 

July 18, 2019 Posted by | environment, Russia | Leave a comment