Volgograd Forum, February 28, 2001

Environmental Movement

At the beginning of this month we were approached by a few environmentalist groups suggesting to discuss the recent passing of the Bill allowing import of spent fuel from foreign nuclear reactors for storage and possible reprocessing by the State Duma.
In exchange for 20,000 tons of that stuff the Russian government estimates it could get a $21 billion windfall.
Unfortunately, the "Green" movement in Russia now is not what it was 11 years ago when I came to Washington, D. C., as part of environmentalists' group from Volgograd. It was a hey-day for groups with such an agenda in Russia. They developed large grass-roots organizations and could bring out into the streets thousands of people in protest and actually achieved a lot making the Government close down some plants that polluted the environment or improve some outdated technologies. In early Yeltsyn years environmentalists even managed to send their representatives into Parliament.
The ensuing economic crisis changed the standing of the environmentalist movement and the power of its influence. People would now trend toward saving their jobs rather than demand closing down a polluting factory. The recent energy crisis in some Russian regions played its part too. Proponents of nuclear energy pointed out that if the Soviet-time program of building new nuclear power stations were continued there would have been no such problems. And such views now prevail. Last month a new nuclear power station in the neighboring Rostov Region was set into operation. It was ready built long ago but the authorities did not dare to launch it as long as Chernobyl disaster was fresh in people's memories.
The sign how attitudes changed was that all, except one, State Duma Deputies representing the Volgograd Oblast voted in favor of that Bill or were simply not present. It means that they knew if there were protests they would be insignificant.
Still we thought that the issue was important for the Volgograd public. So we helped organize a small event at the Volgograd Academy for Environmental Studies (in spite of a loud name, they occupy only a small room) where mostly mass-media people were present, because we thought it important to let the voice of the local "Greens" be heard.

Alexander Yevreinov

Volgograd Free Speech Forum


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