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Greenpeace Condemns Russian Referendum Rejection

Greenpeace Condemns Russian Rejection Of Nuclear Waste Imports Referendum

Moscow 29 November 2000 Greenpeace today condemned as anti- democratic the rejection by the Regional and Central Election Committees of 600,000 signatures from a total of 2.5 million calling for a national referendum on proposed changes to Russian Environmental Law. The changes would allow the importation of vast quantities of radioactive waste. Greenpeace will now challenge the count in the courts.

Under the Russian constitution the President must call a referendum on an issue if more than 2 million signatures are collected throughout the country. Representatives of Greenpeace, in co-operation with representatives of seven other Russian environmental organisations {HYPERLINK \l "one"}(1) formed an ‘initiative group’ which collected 2.5 million signatures, between July 26th and October 24th. These were first examined by Regional Election Committees, which rejected 336,826, before passing the remainder to the Central Election Committee. It dismissed an additional 280,000 reducing the total number of signatures accepted as valid to 1,873,216, too few for a referendum.

It had always been anticipated that the authorities would discount a large number of signatures. One of the official reasons for rejecting names was a failure to state alongside the address, which region the signatory came from. Greenpeace claims this is totally misleading as the region was clearly printed on top of each sheet.

“ This result didn’t shock us it was quite predictable because the Russian authorities fear the will of the Russian people. Clearly the Election Committee’s were under instructions to get the number below 2 million at all costs, even their own credibility,” said Ivan Blokov of Greenpeace Russia.

The change to Russia’s Environmental Law, being promoted by Russia's cash-strapped Atomic Ministry (MINATOM), is designed to allow Russia to become the world's nuclear waste dump. MINATOM believes that over the next decade it could import up to 20,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel from countries including Japan, Switzerland, Germany, Spain, Taiwan, Korea, China -- in contracts worth up to $21 billion.

While Valentin Ivanov, MINATOM first deputy Minister, claims that the contracts would be for “temporary storage and/or reprocessing”, a MINATOM document, released by Greenpeace earlier this year, revealed that Russia would also be offering final disposal. MINATOM argues that by taking the world's unwanted radioactive waste it will be able to upgrade its own nuclear waste storage, remediate some heavily contaminated land, and expand its nuclear reprocessing operations at the Mayak nuclear complex, 2,500 km east of Moscow in the Ural mountains.

Mayak is the world's largest nuclear complex and one of the most radioactively contaminated sites in the world. According to a statement in 1998 by G.J. Dicus, a commissioner for the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission :"As a result of early operational practices and some accidents at Mayak, workers at the plant and populations around the site were exposed to unusually large amounts of radiation and radioactive materials. In many cases, the doses were comparable to those received by survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings."

However, even without a referendum, it is far from certain that Minatom and the Government will be able to push the law changes through the Duma. Last week plans to have the first reading of the proposed new law before the parliament were abandoned when Minatom’s supporters realised they may not have the necessary parliamentary support.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT:

Mike Townsley +31 621296918 or Ivan Blokov on +7095 257 4118 or visit {HYPERLINK "http://www.greenpeace.org/~nuclear/waste/russianwaste.html"}www.gr eenpeac e.org/~nuclear/waste/russianwaste.html

Pictures and video of radioactive contamination around the Mayak nuclear plant are available through the Greenpeace Communications – Contact: John Novis, Photo Editor +31 20 5234 9580; Mim Lowe, Video Producer +31 20 524 9543

Notes to editors: (1) World Wide Fund for Nature; Social-Ecological Union; Centre for Wildlife Protection; Ecological Guard of Sakhalin; Baikal Wave; Committee for the Rescue of the river Pechora; Ecological Centre 'Dront'. end

James Williams Greenpeace International (Press Office) 176 Keizersgracht 1016 DW Amsterdam Netherlands. Phone: ++ 31 (20) 5249 515 Fax: ++ 31 20 523 6212


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