Bush and Putin may look to store radwaste at site of Russian nuclear catastrophe

Besides the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the deadliest nuclear catastrophe in history happened … no, not at Chernobyl, but in Chelyabinsk, Russia. In the mid-20th century, three disasters in the area spread contamination from a nuke-weapons complex, but the news was hushed up by the KGB and CIA. So what better place to store more nuclear waste? Thus seems to be the thinking of U.S. President George W. Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin as they strive to expand the use of nuclear power around the globe. To avoid messy plutonium situations á la North Korea, the Bush-Putin plan would require countries that import reactors to return spent fuel to the exporting country for reprocessing. A wee problem: Neither the U.S. nor Russia have civilian nuclear reprocessing facilities. Bush hopes to alter U.S. law to allow returned waste to go to Russia, most probably to Chelyabinsk — where area residents are already “breathing highly radioactive air, drinking radioactive water, and burning radioactive wood in their fireplaces,” says environmental chemist Marco Kaltofen. The U.S. Congress and Russian government will have opportunities to scuttle the plan.