American Delegation on Plutonium Fuel
May 21 - June 11, 2000

American Delegation on Plutonium Fuel, sponsored by the Center for Safe Energy , an Earth Island Institute project.

Map of Russia

About the trip: Center for Safe Energy, a project of Earth Island Institute, sponsored 3 weeks of People's Hearings on MOX plutonium fuel in Russia. A delegation of US activists and experts went to Russia as participants in this education effort. Delegates included Lou and Janet Zeller of Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, Pat Ortmeyer of Women's Action for New Directions, Don Moniak, Tom Clements of Nuclear Control Institute,  Arjun Makhijani and Michele Boyd of Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, and Fran Macy and Enid Schreibman of Center for Safe Energy.

Tour Journal

Subject: First message from Russia
To: Family and friends
From: Lou & Janet
Date: Wednesday, May 24, 2000

We arrived safe in Moscow on Monday. We want to let you all know that we are being taken very good care of by our Russian hosts. It will take another day or so for us to email you directly, so we are having this message relayed to you via our friends in Saratov. It might take a few more days before you can email us directly.
We arrived last night in Saratov which is a pleasant, medium sized city (one million people) on the Volga River in the heartland of European Russia. We are writing this while on the bus (bump!) crossing the longest bridge in Europe. The bridge crosses the Volga River and is three kilometers long. It is a beautiful, sunny day here.

Today we are having meetings with citizen activists, local government officials, and nuclear industry representatives. Tomorrow we will speak at the first public hearing on mixed oxide/plutonium fuel in Balakovo. The Balakovo nuclear plant is slated for plutonium fuel/MOX. There are four reactors at Balakovo and Balakovo 4 is designated to take the Lead Test Assemblies for MOX fuel.

From: Lou Zeller
Re: Balakovo Nuclear power Plant
Date: 25 May 2000

Yesterday Pat Ortmeyer, Fran Macy, Tom Clements, Don and Karen Moniak, Janet and I  took a tour of the Balakovo NPP which is designated in Russian and American documents as the reactor for plutonium fuel/MOX.  We were taken on a walking tour through the reactor steam generator building and the reactor control room inside reactor 3.  There are four operating nuclear reactors at Balakovo, between 15 and 7 years old.  Two more are planned. (We learned from Lydia Popova that the government announced plans for a total of 40 more new atomic power plants in Russia. Needless to say, she was very upset by this recent news.)
The Balakovo NPP officials seemed happy to take us on the tour but they provided minimal answers to questions. Plant officials said that no modifications of the plant would be necessary for MOX fuel and that the first Lead Test Assembly would be loaded in 2004. However, without money from the USA this project will not go forward. Please find attached to this email photos of the plant taken from the front gate of the reactor.

Today we attended the public hearing organized by Olga Pitsunova and activists from Saratov and Balakova.  The event was well attended and state nuclear officials, local health agency managers, and anti-nuclear activists all had a chance to hear what each group thought about plutonium fuel.  (see photo of Olga P. also attached)

The proceedings were initiated by a troupe of young people organized by Anatoly and Olga Sivachenko.  The troupe is called "In Spite of Everything." It was a parody of public television pablum about nuclear power and plutonium fuel.  (see photo in 3rd attachment)

The day ended after 8 solid hours of testimony, mostly anti-MOX.  An anti-MOX fuel policy document was developed and approved at the meeting.  We hope to get an English translation as soon as possible.

Email is catch-as-catch-can. More soon, I hope!

From: Janet & Lou Zeller
Place: Ekaterinburg, Sverdlovsk, Russia
Date: May 31, 2000
Re: Visit to Beloyarsk Nuclear Power Plant  

Today the American Delegation on Plutonium Fuel visited the Beloyarsk Nuclear Power Plant which is 25 kilometers from the City of Ekaterinburg (pop. 1.3 million).  There is also a town just 3 kilometers from the plant.  People used to live closer to the plant, but a zone of contamination had to be created and people had to be evacuated.  Radioactive contamination has spread 180 kilometers downstream from the plant and includes strontium 90 and cesium 137.  Reactors 1 and 2 were shut down after radiation releases resulting from problems with irradiated fuel storage.  These hot fuels are still stored on site and no decommissioning plan exists.

Reactor number 3 is a BN-600 fast breeder type with an electric output of 600 MW electricity, 1470 MW thermal.  The plant officials said that the heat output is not used and is dumped into the cooling pond.  This reactor has had several serious sodium (coolant) leaks, the most serious of which occurred in 1996.  Plant officials denied the occurance of any serious coolant leakage. The BN-600 is slated for plutonium fuel use--one third core in 2004 and full-core a few years later.  (In 1988 the plant secretly began using some plutonium fuel assemblies.)

Lou asked about a weakness identified by US Department of Energy regarding fresh plutonium fuel handling.  The DOE reported that the actinides (e.g. Americium-241) in the fresh plutonium/MOX fuel would require remote handling systems.  The plant engineers we spoke to today denied there were any special preparations of this nature underway or needed.  They also said there would be no need for retrofit of the reactor for plutonium/MOX fuel. 

Janet asked if any representatives of American corporations had visited the plant and she was shown the card of a Duke Power employee who works at the Catawba nuclear plant near Rock Hill, SC. 

A fourth reactor at Beloyarsk has received its license but is not constructed because of financial problems.  This BN-800 would be larger but would have only one steam turbine, as opposed to three in Unit 3 BN-600.  The use of plutonium fuel planned for this reactor is obviously not designed for electricity output!

As at the Balakovo reactor, the Beloyarsk plant was guarded by armed soldiers.  A major concern about the mixing of military weapons plutonium and the commercial nuclear industry is the need for high level security.  Because the plutonium fuel traveling from the planned fuel fabrication plant at Savannah River to the McGuire and Catawba reactors would require military-like escorts.  The McGuire and Catawba plants may have to have armed guards authorized to use deadly force.

Subject: Ekaterinburg Public Hearing June 2, 2000
From: Lou Zeller
Place: Ekaterinburg
Date: Friday, June 2  

We are east of the Urals Mountains and at a very northern latitude.  The sky is bright at 11 PM. 
Today the American Delegation attended the Public Hearing at Dom Tekniki (House of Technology) in Ekaterinburg.  The hearings was organized by Leonid Piskunov, a retired physicist who is very active in the movement to stop plutonium fuel in his home town, and Anatol Lebedev, President of the Urals Environmental Union which is a regional organization of scientists and lawyers. 

The proceedings began with a speech by Janet Zeller on environmental justice, environmental democracy, and community control.  She said, "We oppose plutonium fuel in nuclear power reactors because it is expensive and endangers public health.  And the state program to use this fuel violates democratic rights." 

Lydia Popova, a former Minatom nuclear physicist who now leads the Socioecological Union which opposes plutonium fuel, spoke about this magnificent Ural Mountain region and of her sadness that the Chelyabinsk accident contaminated this land of Russian fairy tales with poisonous tritium, cesium, and other radionuclides.  She said, "This is a Cold War technology which was invented for the production of military plutonium.  Now Minatom proposes to use its failed reactors for plutonium fuel.  But the politicians never consulted the people.  Do we really need to use this Cold War legacy.  It is a dead end!"

Other speakers gave talks with detailed information about the 1957 explosion at Chelyabinsk and the radioactivity which still contaminates the Techa River and the lands around it.  Families which suffer from birth defects caused by the damage have still not been compensated.

Leonid Piskunov rose to tell of the 1987 accident at Beloyarsk Nuclear Power Plant.  The accident reached the fourth level of seriousness,  the fallout was 1 Curie per square kilometer, and release of radioactivity continues.  In 1988 the plant secretly began using plutonium fuel.  He spoke about the lack of containment at the BN-600 reactors and said, "Nuclear facilities do not comply with regulations."

Following the hearing, the participants took action and supported in principle a comprehensive position which includes a public environmental impact statement, a formal licensing process for plutonium fuel use, and the establishment of a research center for radiation dose impacts.  

Attachment--Photo of the hearing with Janet Zeller addressing the assembly.  Leonid Piskunov, who chaired the meeting, is seated next to the speaker's podium.  On the far right is Fran Macy, of the Berkeley-based Center for Safe Energy, who heads the American Delegation.

Press Release regarding Plutonium Agreement

BREDL June 5, 2000 Press Release - Russian and American Plutonium agreement draws fire.

Interview with Oleg Bodrov

This one-minute interview with Oleg Bodrov was conducted by Lou Zeller at the Ministry for Atomic Energy of the Russian Federation  (Minatom) Hotel in St. Petersburg on June 10, 2000.

BREDL video clip BREDL video clip.
Interview with Oleg Bodrov. Play video clip.

Oleg Bodrov is Chairman of the environmental organization Green World and Editor of the Ecological Bulletin in St.Petersburg, Russia.   Oleg's home is near the Gulf of Finland in a village called Sosnovy Bor, which means "pine forest."  Fifty miles west of St. Petersburg, Sosnovy Bor is
also the location of Leningrad Nuclear Power Plant with four 1000 megawatt nuclear power reactors.  The four RBMK-1000 reactors are similar in design to Chernobyl.

Greenworld leads a public education campaign on the danger of radioactive waste fuel storage at the Leningrad Nuclear Power Plant. The highly radioactive waste is at 130% of design storage capacity and contains 40 to 60 times the radiation released in the Chernobyl disaster.

Oleg graduated from Leningrad Polytechnic University with a degree in nuclear engineering and physics and formerly worked on Soviet nuclear submarines at the Research Institute of Nuclear Technology.  For most of the last decade he has participated in numerous international conferences on nuclear safety, disarmament, and environmental problems. Oleg was part of the Russian Delegation opposed to plutonium fuel which came to Charlotte, NC in 1999.  He hosted the American Delegation during our tour of the Minatom Regional Education Center in St. Petersburg,

PO Box 68/7, 188537 Sosnovy Bor
St. Petersburg region, Russia