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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Russia’s nuclear power industry is in chaos and poses greater environmental threat than ever before, but government leaders won’t admit it, a Russian official says in a University of Tennessee-Oak Ridge National Laboratory publication.

Artiom Ustinov, a Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs official in Moscow, says chances of an accident like the one 10 years ago Friday in Chernobyl are increasing due to lack of money.

In the current Forum for Applied Research and Public Policy, Ustinov says Russia’s state electric energy monopoly is owed $4 billion from energy consumers.

Ustinov says energy officials, plant operators and maintenance workers are leaving because they aren’t getting paid. Nuclear plants can’t afford to buy fuel. Some have even proposed taking fuel from nuclear submarines, he says.

The Russian Nuclear Energy Ministry seeks to drop regulations for supervision and control of nuclear facilities — adopted following the Chernobyl disaster — because of lack of funds.

Ustinov says social tensions are increasing, qualified staff are leaving and spare parts and fuel are difficult to obtain.

Since 1992 there have been more than 200 malfunctions at Russia’s 29 nuclear plants. An October 1993 explosion at Tomsk nuclear plant in Siberia caused $10 million in damage to reactors.

Despite the evidence, the state nuclear-power monopoly denies the potential for danger and “maintains that recent media reports indicating serious safety problems at Russia’s nuclear power plants have been exaggerated,” Ustinov says. “Nevertheless, reports of chaos in the industry have inspired sensational headlines….

“Advocates and producers of Russian nuclear power are yielding to public pressure to shut down and overhaul the aging reactors.”


Contact: Dr. Danny Schaffer (423-974-4251)