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Russia: Nuclear Safety

Volume 572: debated on Tuesday 21 May 1996

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asked Her Majesty's Government:What assessment they have made of the environmental risks arising from the storage, handling and use of radioactive materials, including nuclear reactors, in northern Russia; whether they will evaluate the findings of the Bellona Foundation in the report

The Russian Northern Fleet and in particular their conclusions that "without international co-operation and financing, a situation will in all probability arise which can be pictured as a Chernobyl in slow motion," and whether they will ask the Chairman in Office of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation on Europe, Mr. Flavio Cotti, to take up with the Russians the imprisonment on a charge of high treason of one of the authors, retired naval captain Alexander Nikitin, and the general principle that information in the public domain cannot be treated as a state secret, if Russia is to stay in conformity with Helsinki provisions on freedom of expression.

The Government share concern about the whole range of nuclear safety issues in Russia, including the management of radioactive materials, and the disposal of nuclear components of obsolete vessels of the Russian Northern and Far Eastern fleets. The West has committed over £780 million in multilateral grant assistance to improve nuclear safety in the countries of the former Soviet Union and central and eastern Europe, including almost £80 million for nuclear fuel cycles and radioactive waste projects. The UK plays an active role in these programmes. AEA Technology are currently working on safe removal and storage of unstable nuclear fuel on board a Russian support ship in Murmansk harbour. One project of the international Nuclear Safety Account, to which we subscribe, aims to improve safety at the Russian nuclear power plant at Kola in NW Russia. 24 million ECU has already been committed to this.We and our European Allies are closely monitoring the case of Mr. Nikitin, in the spirit of the Helsinki Declaration. The British Ambassador raised the matter with the Russians last month. We expect Russia to follow the due process of law.