NTW member, journalist and activist Andrey Ozharkovsky is refused information
Blog from Jan Haverkamp, 19 May 2017
When he was preparing for his speech for a group of local citizens and experts in the town of Mersin in South-East Turkey about how the nearby situated Akkuyu nuclear energy project is seen from a Russian perspective, member of the Russian Socio-Ecological Union – one of the oldest environmental organisations in Russia – and journalist Andrey Ozharkovsky tried to get much as possible information also directly from the side of the foreseen builder, owner and operator of the power plant, Rosatom. Without success he approached Rosatom’s Turkish daughter for the project JSC Akkuyu Nuklear for the latest version of the EIA documentation. Also requests to Rosatom itself for many documents went without response. On the basis of his own inside knowledge and whatever there is available publicly, he could, however, still sketch an insightful picture. He has studied the dynamics around the Hanhikivi project that Rosatom is pushing in Finland, the Astravetz project in Belarus. He has followed for decades the work of Rosatom in countries like Bulgaria and Hungary. He could get access to a lot of documentation published in the Russian, Turkish and international media about Akkuyu as well.
He started his introduction with: “”I am an anti-nuclear activist in my country. I believe in the need to maintain good-neighbourly relations between our two countries, but nuclear issues can create problems in our relations.” He ended his presentation: “I think that the Akkuyu nuclear power plant construction project is an example of mutual non-beneficial cooperation, as a result of which a threat to the good-neighbourly relations between Russia and Turkey can be created.”
Rosatom listened in. After his presentation in Mersin, it finally reacted with a 2 page densely written diatribe (see illustration): “You sent a request for the Akkuyu nuclear power plant. Before returning to this issue, we want to report the following. Turkish media Jumhuriyet published an article on May 2, 2017 on the issue of nuclear waste, which will be produced during operation of the Akkuyu nuclear power plant. The author of the material, Abidin Yagmur, quotes and refers to your speech at the panel discussion organized in the Mersin House of Physicians, where you came by the invitation of the Antinuclear Platform. To our great regret, we are forced to pay attention to your erroneous statements, which are baseless and contain inaccurate information on this issue.” It then continues to accuse Ozharkovsky of not having asked Rosatom experts for up to date information, of making false public statements and misleading the public.
Although Russian legislation is quite clear that it bans the import of nuclear waste, and only allows nuclear waste to be transported to the country for reprocessing, whereby resulting waste has to be returned to the country of origin, Turkish citizens believe that there is a bilateral agreement in place that will allow full transfer of nuclear waste from Akkuyu to Russia. Ozharkovsky had pointed out that this issue is not at all settled and feared that Turkey might be misled into believing that transfer for reprocessing would be a solution to the high-level waste problem. An impression that also the public in Bulgaria and Hungary sometimes still has, although these countries are now struggling with what to do with returning wastes. Rosatom quotes Ozharkovsky’s speech that “the nuclear waste that will be generated during the operation of the Akkuyu nuclear power plant could cause a crisis in relations between Turkey and Russia.”
It then accuse him of “insulting remarks to the professionals of the Russian nuclear industry, which celebrated its 70th anniversary last year. We consider such statements unethical and unacceptable. Rosatom State Corporation, which always stands for the development of an open dialogue based on reliable and relevant information, has the right to draw a conclusion about your unwillingness to constructive dialogue and interest in loud statements that do not correspond to reality.” After an indeed factually right description of the reprocessing agreements Rosatom has in place with different countries and a description of the international and national basis for the cooperation between Turkey and Russia, it concludes: “Thus, the statement about the absence of a long-term waste management plan for the Akkuyu nuclear power plant is erroneous and has no basis.”
Well, that is a wrong conclusion, because Ozharkovsky had made clear that also Russia has no final disposal for radioactive waste, nor is there one for the foreseeable future in Turkey. And it is that lack of clarity and confusion of short term management with final solution that could, according to Ozharkovksy, lead to future tension between the countries.
Rosatom then provides one paragraph of general PR-talk about the containment of Akkuyu – one of the issues about which Ozharkovsky had requested substantial information.And then it states: “Sorry, we are not ready to discuss with you on this subject, despite your unconditional knowledge in the design of special objects and the possibility of computer modeling.”
That attitude towards transparency does not bode well for cooperation between Rosatom and citizens in European countries where it wants to be active, including Turkey. A justification discussion including the environmental, social and economic risks of new nuclear projects cannot be based on PR talk and has to include a well informed public. That needs openness to requests for information from the public, and most certainly from informed NGOs and their members. It needs openness to discuss those issues without intimidation. And above all, it needs honesty about the facts and uncertainties and true, not only formal respect for these citizens.
ILLUSTRATION: download Rosatom letter translated in english here.
See the scan of the russian version here.