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The following article, published in the newspaper Trud on February 22, 1996, explains how legislation on the operation of Russia's nuclear complex is only now being written . During the years of the Soviet Union, nuclear facilities were treated as 'special objects,' basically able to operate above the law.


"Chernobyl, Dimitrograd, Where else?"
By A. Ioirysh and Yuri Rogozhin

(Professor A. Ioirysh, Professor of the Institute of State and Law, and Yuri Rogozhin are advising the Russian parliament on matters concerning drafting a legal basis for the atomic industry in Russia.)

The recent incident at the atomic reactor in Dmitrovgrad has once again drawn attention of society to the problems of radioactive security on Russian nuclear installations. More often, people are asking "Does a legal basis for the use of these dangerous facilities exist and to what degree are the environment and people's health protected on a legal level?"

For many decades, the Soviet Union, being one of the great atomic powers, did not have even one law regulating the use of nuclear energy, even if only in the civil sphere. This situation, abnormal from the point of view of the outside observer, did not bother any of the domestic state care-takers until recently. This fact is understandable since from the moment of the appearance of nuclear energy in the USSR, it was placed under special security. In the conditions of it being closed off from civil control, there was no reason for legal regulation in this area. Even the serious radiation accident around Chelyabinsk in 1957, from which thousands of people suffered, was forbidden from being discussed in the mass media.

The push to starting to work out a law on the use of atomic energy obviously was caused by a much less serious accident at the American atomic station Three-Mile Island in 1979. But the first draft of this legal project was only prepared in 1985 at the Institute of the State and Law of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR.

However, the so-called "competent organs" saw in it a danger of exposing state secrets connected with nuclear weapons, and so in the next year under the aegis of the State Committee on Science and Technology a legal project was begun entitled "On Nuclear Energy." The document, which was sent by the government to the Supreme Soviet in 1987, sharply limited the sphere of action of the law by excluding all weapons questions. The draft-law was caught up in various commissions and committees of the Supreme Soviet, and thus did not come to plenary hearings until the last all-union parliament.

Under the influence of the mood of perestroika there were several attempts to create an all-encompassing law on the use of atomic energy. In the beginning of 1993, the variant worked out by the working group of the Committee on Industry, Transport and Energy, was adopted by the Supreme Soviet of the Russian Federation in its first reading. Work on this variant of the law continued and by the date of the dissolution of the Supreme Soviet it was ready for its third hearing.

In the newly formed State Duma, work was once again begun on a draft law with its preparation for a first hearing. It took two years of intensive work by experts and deputies for the law "On the Use of Atomic Energy" to finally be passed by both houses of the Federal Congress.

But, alas, the story does not end here. The military, who for all the years of the preparation of the law always fought to be excluded from its sphere, were not ready to surrender. Under the influence of the armed forces, the president of the Russian Federation ended up signing a law, which required even more editorial work in order to accommodate the requirements of the military.

After behind the scenes negotiations between the leadership of the "interested agencies" the corresponding corrections were introduced, and on November 21 the country's first "atomic" law was born. However, first pancakes never turn out right, and this case was no exception.

For example, the possibility of private property on any atomic facility is ruled out. Thus, the introduction into the atomic industry of the most effective economic mechanisms, and the attraction of foreign investment, was for practical purposes eliminated.

However, being the first stone lain in the long awaited atomic law of Russia, this law can't regulate all the questions regarding the use of atomic energy.

Therefore, specialists almost immediately began to work on other draft laws. The history of their misadventures would take another article. Here we simply note that at the end of the last year, there were two laws awaiting the president's signature: "On the Radiation Safety of the Population" and "On the Issue of Radioactive Wastes."

The local powers were particularly vocal in their opposition to the sections about the safe conduct of work dealing with radioactive wastes, including on military instalations. Apparently, "the box was opened." The president was sent a letter from the Ministry of Defense, in which it requested that the law "On the Issue of Radioactive Wastes" be set aside for the reason that allowing representatives of Civil Control onto the territory of military bases would in effect declassify their locations.

Is it possible to take this reasoning seriously when foreign spy satellites can easily tell not only the location of military bases, but even the differences between the insignia of different personnel?

It leads one to conclude that in this case we are dealing with a tendency to giving freer reign to the military agencies. Gosatomnadzor, in July, for example, was stripped of its power to control military nuclear installations.

It seems like the military understands that the massive steps towards the formation of Russian atomic law. And for now, they are holding one victory after another. Who is it that is losing? And mightn't the cost of these victories be too high, and not only for the military?

In the conditions of psuedo-resposibility and a legal vacuum, Chernobyl showed the world what a casual attitude towards the requirements of nuclear and radiation safety can lead to.

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