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Russians halt nuclear fact finding visit

Representatives of the Axpo energy group have called off a planned visit to Russia, after being suddenly told they could not visit the Mayak uranium reprocessing plant.

The official reason given by Rosatom, the Russian State Nuclear Energy Corporation, which is responsible for Mayak, is that the plant is in a closed military area.

In a statement issued by Axpo on Sunday, chairman Robert Lombardini said they were “very annoyed” at the fact that the visit, scheduled for the end of the month, had been called off at such short notice.

Several of Switzerland’s nuclear power stations get their fuel from the French Areva group, some of whose uranium is reprocessed in Mayak and a second Russian plant, Seversk. Axpo owns the two Beznau stations and has stakes in Gösgen and Leibstadt. It also has purchase rights to the output of French nuclear power stations.

Environmental groups have long expressed concern about the Russian plants. The environmental organisation Greenpeace says the area around Mayak is highly contaminated.

Lombardini explained that the aim of the visit by members of the Axpo board of directors was to “throw light on the allegations and decide on the basis of new factors whether the reprocessing of uranium in the Russian plants is consistent with the requirements laid down by Axpo for sustainable energy production".

Markus Kägi of the Zurich cantonal government, who is a member of the Axpo board, said on Sunday that if the group was unable to obtain “transparency” about the work of Mayak, “there should be consequences”.

Axpo spokesman Rainer Meier told the Swiss News Agency that they still hoped to visit. But in any case, the board would decide by the end of the year whether to continue using uranium from Mayak.

Mayak is located in the Urals, the border between Europe and Asia. An explosion there in 1957 – hushed up for about 30 years – contaminated a wide area.


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