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
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
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
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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