Waste of a law

AMONG many other issues of political and economic sovereignty, Russia's policy on nuclear waste management is on the mat. While environmentalists are clamouring for a ban on nuclear waste imports into Russia, the desperately cash-poor government sees this as a gold mine for its sagging foreign exchange reserves. A new law on waste management is currently being pushed by sophistry through the Russian parliament; the ministry of atomic power (MinAtom) has been adroitly circumventing the existing environmental law by defining spent nuclear fuel as a "raw material". The law still has to pass its 3rd reading (it recently passed the 2nd reading in the Duma, the lower house), and be adopted by the Federal Council (the upper house). Pressure from the supporters and officials of the proposed repository has already succeeded in forcing the Duma to amend the draft waste law. President Boris Yeltsin's approval, however, seems unlikely. Meanwhile, when completed, Russia's 1st nuclear waste repository, the rt-2, a reprocessing plant at Zheleznogorsk, will permanently house highly toxic wastes stacked deep underground. MinAtom has also undertaken to supply and reprocess the fuel for the reactors Russia is building in Iran, and has offered similar services to China and Hungary.

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