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Putin OKs Nuclear Waste Bill

July 12, 2001|From Associated Press

MOSCOW — President Vladimir V. Putin signed into law Wednesday a plan to permit Russia to import spent nuclear fuel for reprocessing, but he proposed setting up a special council to have final say on the imports.

Liberals and environmentalists argue that the plan would turn Russia into a nuclear dump. The legislation won parliamentary backing last month despite polls showing that most Russians were against the idea.

Proponents argue that Russia could earn $20 billion over the next decade importing about 22,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel for storage and reprocessing. They say part of the money could be used to clean up existing nuclear pollution.

Putin on Wednesday also sent parliament a draft law proposing that any nuclear imports be subject to approval by a commission chaired by Nobel Prize-winning physicist Zhores Alferov, the president's press service reported.

The commission is to include 20 people, five from Putin's administration and an equal number each from the government and parliament's upper and lower houses.

Critics say Russia's spotty nuclear safety record and rampant corruption cast doubt on its ability to safely handle spent fuel.

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