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Russian, American Nuclear Groups Discuss Decommissioning

By Enid Schreibman, Director of the Center for Safe Energy

Vermont Yankee

Oleg Bodrov, longtime Russian partner of Center for Safe Energy, a project of Earth Island Institute, received the Nuclear Free Future award at New York’s Great Hall at Cooper Union September 30th. He shared the stage with four other award-winners: the African Uranium Alliance, France’s Bruno Barrillot, Actor Martin Sheen, and Lakota leader Henry Red Cloud.
     Bodrov, a nuclear engineer, is a whistle blower who was brutally attacked in Russia for his investigation of the nuclear industry’s practice of re-smelting radioactive metal. While working as a researcher testing nuclear submarine reactor units he learned of the cover-up of a nuclear explosion killing two people in Russia and realized he needed to, in his words, use his knowledge “not for military research, but to protect nature from the nuclear industry.” Now, as founder and chair of the Russian NGO Green World, Bodrov works to protect the public by advocating for the decommissioning of Russia’s fleet of aging nuclear power plants, many of which are Chernobyl-type reactors operating well beyond their lifespan. These reactors are monitored without any citizen participation. In general, the citizens living in industrial cities near the reactors are largely employed by the plants and are thus too worried about losing their jobs to say anything about the danger of the reactors. Bodrov’s twofold vision is to decommission the plants and to replace jobs in the nuclear industry with jobs in the sustainable energy sector.
     To that end, shortly after the awards ceremony, Bodrov partnered with Center for Safe Energy, Norwegian Friends of the Earth and the New England Coalition to bring a delegation of Russian government and non government leaders to Vermont to discuss decommissioning with their American counterparts, who are working to decommission the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant. Bodrov documented the experience via filmed interviews with the stakeholders involved. The film will be shared with the residents of the closed nuclear city he calls home in Russia, in the hopes of persuading the Russian government to model their nuclear decision process after what he observed in the United States, where the process is more open and inclusive of the public.
     In addition to questions of general process, the American and Russian delegations discussed the dangers of aging parts, the inability to inspect underground pipes which have reached their lifetime limit, and the problem of nuclear waste storage. While the Russian group came to understand the complexity of decommissioning, given the ever-present problem of waste management, the Americans learned about the dangers of reprocessing waste, a practice common in Russia’s Ural mountains. The summit couldn’t have happened at a more opportune time: A week later the Nuclear Regulatory Commission announced the discovery of radioactive Tritium in a former drinking water well near the Vermont Yankee plant. The future of the plant, which provides one-third of Vermont’s electric power, is a hot-button issue in the race for the state’s governor.

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