Greenpeace activists held a rally on Tuesday in St. Petersburg against a shipment of uranium hexafluoride (UF6) belonging to the French nuclear energy group Areva, the environmental group said.
The Russian Kapitan Kuroptev vessel was greeted by Greenpeace banners in French and Russian declaring that "Russia is not a nuclear dump."
The ship was already been a source of controversy in 2005, when after a group of environmental activists tried to stop it from entering the port with a similar cargo of spent nuclear fuel.
According to international standards, uranium hexafluoride is not considered nuclear waste, because it can be transformed into fuel for nuclear power stations.
"If it is a valuable fuel, why does France's Areva part with it so easily?" said Vladimir Chuprov, the energy program director of Greenpeace Russia. "And what need does Rosatom have for it, when it already has stored up hundreds of thousands tons of such uranium tails, even though there is no special technology or financial resources for nuclear waste recycling in Russia?"
A week ago, French Greenpeace activists tore up the rail tracks near the Tricastin Nuclear Power Center in southeastern France to stop a shipment of nuclear waste to Russia, saying Russia's state-controlled civilian nuclear energy corporation Rosatom was carrying out a "hidden trade in nuclear waste."
In response to Greenpeace's accusations, Rosatom said the protesters were "drawing attention to an issue that doesn't exist," referring to the contracts on uranium deliveries that expire in 2010.
"Rosatom did in fact drop its contract with Urenco, a European consortium which supplies equipment to enrich uranium for the nuclear industry, in 2010, but the agreements on shipping nuclear waste from France's Areva are still in effect. Areva is determined to stick to contract terms that it says expire in 2014," Chuprov told RIA Novosti in telephone interview on Tuesday.
Chuprov said Greenpeace sent a request to Areva's CEO Anne Lauvergeon a month ago asking the company to cancel its contract with Russia, but has not received a reply.
The French government set up a special ministerial commission after a documentary on nuclear waste shipments to Russia was shown in France in October 2009. The commission's report is due to be completed in April or May.
MOSCOW, April 13 (RIA Novosti by Anastasia Markitan)