Deadly Waste All Around Us
Glas Javnosti - February 29, 2004

Written by: Tanja Kaludjerovic

At the top of the West's list of prospective nuclear waste dumping grounds are countries and regions that are international military protectorates, such as Bosnia -Hercegovina, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Who can control military deliveries to those places? The United States has already made preparations for studying the effects of nuclear waste and depleted uranium on the local population in Kosmet [Kosovo-Metohija] in the next 30 years. The air strikes on Yugoslavia in 1999 have definitely sealed the fate of the region as the rubbish heap for the nuclear waste of others, environmental activist Dejan Dimov insists.

Radiation measurements made in the 1980s indicate that Serbia had been processing the nuclear waste of others back then. "In the global euphoria of building nuclear power plants, which had begun in 1945, it had been planned for the former Yugoslavia to build 43 nuclear power plants by the year 2025, and the number was subsequently revised down to 23. In Serbia, one was to be build in Mladenovo near Backa Topola, another in Kostolac, and as many as seven in the Piva River Valley. In the division of labour among the republics, the storage of nuclear waste was to be in the care of the Vinca Nuclear Research Institute," Dimov says.

Although this plan was subsequently abandoned, the so-called 1989 "August radiation" showed that there had been some "dirty work at the crossroads" in Serbia where nuclear waste was concerned. "Tests confirmed the existence of isotopes from a nuclear reactor. This was conclusive proof that Serbian industry had processed some nuclear waste. Somebody probably had an idea to burn the waste at high temperatures in the furnaces of the Bor mines and then scatter the residue over Serbia (although this process certainly does not reduce radiation).

"If such a thing were to happen today, they would be very well served by the existing law on ionizing radiation, which requires that beta radiation measurements should be taken only a month after an accident," Dimov warns. He described the law as genocidal, because it essentially allows trading in extremely hazardous materials and directly protects the lobby that advocates the storage of nuclear waste.

Two years since the establishment of a separate ministry for the protection of natural resources and the environment, Serbia still does not have an adequate law that would prevent abuses in this field. "Minister Andjelka Mihajlov keeps insisting that, before it was passed, the law on environmental protection had been put to a public debate in which 3,000 experts took part. I would like to know the name of at least one of the experts that agreed to the provisions of that law. How can we feel protected by a law that entails a maximum fine of 5,000 euros for offenders?

"The minister has done nothing but establish an agency without a law or a parliamentary decision, so that she could receive donations. There everything is in order, since donated money is spent according to strict rules: 80 per cent of the money that comes in goes back the same way by way of projects devised by foreign agencies. Of the total assistance received, 20 per cent at most can go to domestic research institutes," Dimov states, expressing disappointment with the Serbian ministers, who have no ideas or vision, nor do they tackle the right issues.
Self-styled reformists

"I am terribly afraid that the self-styled reformist politicians do not recognize the priorities. Every European bureaucratic government will support without a murmur a policy of priorities and protect the national interests of resources and the environment. In our case, it is again the same old story of new people are coming to power and immediately creating a new wonder: a ministry of science and the environment. The merging of these areas means that nothing will also be done about science, or about environmental protection. Funds from the budget earmarked for science are less than meagre (0.03 per cent) and have to cover the ecological needs as well. In future, environmental protection will be the subject only of newspaper reports written by correspondents concerned about how their children will live," Dimov maintains.

[Box] Profit

Of all the types of ground tested for dumping nuclear waste (salt, concrete, ocean, desert), scientists recommend basalt rocks. In Serbia, this type of rock is to be found on Kopaonik and Fruska Gora Mountains.

"Since one part of Kopaonik has been sold off for a NATO base and another tourist part brings in huge profits, Fruska Gora is the obvious choice. Decision time is drawing near, because Minister Andjelka Mihajlov said three months ago that the Serbian government would be choosing within six months a central location for storing Serbian nuclear waste," Nikola Aleksic, chairman of the Ecological Movement of Novi Sad, warns of the possible nuclear epilogue in Serbia. He stresses that political parties show a heightened interest in the environment only for reason of profit.

"The biggest money comes from commissions on building a nuclear power plant. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that some parties are advocating building a nuclear power plant in Vojvodina. A scandal has been caused not by this proposal, but by somebody in the province's administration giving approval for a central smelting plant and a dump for the most highly toxic chemical waste from all of Serbia to be built right over the most powerful source of drinking water.

"The Ministry of Environmental Protection has already drawn up a project with the help of the French SOFRECO [expansion unknown] consultants and said the local administration has agreed. To this day, the minister has not explained who has given the consent in the name of the 300,000 citizens of Novi Sad," says the chairman of the Vojvodina ecological organization, which is a member of the European Ecological Bureau.

Original Language: Serbian

Glas javnosti, Belgrade February 29, 2004 /BBC Monitoring/(c) BBC Record Number: 10121CEAE86765EF

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