‘A technical decision’ High alert regime introduced near St. Petersburg due to dispute over responsibility for radioactive waste
On the morning of June 8, the Leningrad region’s governor announced that a municipality located about 30 kilometers from St. Petersburg was being put on high alert, due to a dispute involving radioactive waste. According to the district administration, the conflict arose after a local research center transferred part of its property to Russia’s Federal Agency for State Property Management. Located on the grounds is a workshop housing more than a thousand cubic meters of solid radioactive waste. The research center now claims that it’s no longer responsible for ensuring waste safety, though the transfer process for these radioactive “barrels” remains unclear. Government officials maintain that they are monitoring the situation and that background radiation levels in the surrounding area are within normal range.
On June 8, Leningrad Regional Governor Alexander Drozdenko introduced a high alert regime in a municipality on the outskirts of St. Petersburg, due to a potential threat of radiation. As of 10:00 a.m. local time, the Kuzmolovskoye urban settlement — a municipality located in the Vsevolozhsky district — was put on high alert due to a situation “prone to the occurrence of radiation contamination and the deterioration of the environmental situation in the Leningrad region.”
The high alert regime is associated with a dispute concerning property from a radiation complex that was previously part of the Russian Research Center Applied Chemistry, an enterprise established in 1919. Today, this enterprise is part of the state corporation Rostec and works on developments in the chemical, defense, and medical fields, as well as in other sectors of industry.
The head of the Vsevolozhsky district administration, Andrey Nizkovsky, told the outlet 47 news that the high alert regime was introduced due to a conflict between the leadership of the research center and Rosimushchestvo (Russia’s Federal Agency for State Property Management).
“Applied Chemistry’s management believes they no longer have to answer for barrels with some kind of nasty stuff — with radiation, it seems. They were given an ultimatum that they would be responsible for them [the barrels] until the end of May. Now, May has passed. So [...] it was decided to introduce a high alert regime. There’s no telling how all of this will work out,” Nizkovsky said.
According to 47 news, in December 2020, the research center changed its ownership structure from a federal state unitary enterprise (FGUP) to a joint-stock company (JSC). After that, it transferred a section of its property to Rosimushchestvo, which happened to be the location of a workshop containing 1,274 cubic meters (44,990 cubic feet) of solid radioactive waste (according to a map on Rosatom’s website, this is more radioactive waste than is found in the entire Novgorod and Ryazan regions). Now, the research center insists that it’s no longer responsible for waste safety. Rosimushchestvo has stated that all of the workshop’s infrastructure is subject to privatization.
47 news also writes that according to Rostekhnadzor (Russia’s Federal Service for Environmental, Technological, and Nuclear Supervision), “the issues of the direct transfer of radioactive wastes and radioactive substances from the [Russian Research Center] Apple Chemistry to anyone aren’t finalized at all.”
Government officials have assured that there is no excess background radiation in the nearby town of Kuzmilovo or in St. Petersburg, which is located about 30 kilometers from the municipality. The regional governor also underscored that the decision to introduce a high alert regime was a technical one:
“An order was given to Rosimushchestvo to promptly re-secure property not included in the fixed capital for specialized organizations. For this, a high alert regime was introduced, in order to supervise this decision and, while this decision is being implemented, to monitor its surroundings and the environmental situation. This is a technical decision — let’s evaluate it absolutely correctly, and, most importantly, calmly.”
“At the moment we have a radiation-hazardous facility that poses a significant danger to its surroundings, without an owner. It was abandoned by both the enterprise dealing with its fate and the agency, under which it could theoretically be controlled. Neither one nor the other has a license. The prospects for figuring anything out are vague.”
Translation by Eilish Hart