Germany approves disputed nuclear shipment to Russia

23rd September 2010, Comments 0 comments

German authorities approved Thursday hotly disputed plans to ship radioactive nuclear waste to Russia in a move expected to spark fresh protests by atomic energy opponents in both countries.

Germany's nuclear watchdog green-lighted the shipment of 951 spent fuel elements from the temporary storage site Ahaus in the west of the country to the Mayak nuclear facility, 2,000 kilometres (1,200 miles) east of Moscow.

"The fuel elements... will be returned to Russia on the basis of the Russian Research Reactor Fuel Return Programme agreed between the United States, Russia and the International Atomic Energy Agency," the Federal Office for Radiation Protection said in a statement.

It did not release a date for the shipment, which will be packaged in a maximum of 18 specially sealed containers.

Russia environmental group Ecodefence had said that German authorities were to send the waste, originally from the Rossendorf research centre in former communist East Germany, between late 2010 and early 2011.

Rossendorf, in Dresden, was closed in 1991 and was one of the 20 research reactor plants set up across 17 countries in the former communist bloc.

German ecologist group BBU said in would stage protests against the shipment, which it branded "highly dangerous".

Demonstrators in Moscow rallied against the plans in August, citing the threat of "terrorist acts" and risk of forest fires leading to radioactive contamination.

The Mayak facility in Ozersk is a major nuclear reprocessing plant and was the site of a massive nuclear accident in 1957.

A state of emergency was declared in Ozersk last month after Russia's wildfires blazed dangerously close to the plant.

Tens of thousands of Germans hit the streets Saturday in Berlin to protest government plans to extend the life of the country's 17 nuclear power plants well beyond the planned shut-off date of around 2020.

© 2010 AFP

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