Russian Minister of Atomic Power Fired by Russian President

Bingaman Supports U.S. Program to Compensate Sick Uranium Mine Workers

* Russian President Vladimir Putin fired Evgeny Adamov, Russian Minister of Atomic Power, this week. The lower house of the Russian parliament, called the Duma, deemed Adamov corrupt earlier this year, which led to his firing. For the past three years, Adamov has been promoting the importation of nuclear waste into Russia. Putin fired Adamov shortly after the Duma rejected Adamov's bill to allow the Ministry of Atomic Power (or Minatom) to import waste.

Adamov spent billions of Russian dollars to promote nuclear technology in third-world countries and lobbied for export credits in foreign nations that agreed to build Soviet-designed nuclear reactors. During his term, Adamov was constantly at odds with Russia's Green Party, which opposes the import of waste into Russia. Said Vladimir Slivyak, of Ecodefense, "[the] government and [the] president fired [the] minister because they want to stop the waste import plan or because they want a more respected person to lobby for waste import." Adamov's plan called for the importation of 20,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel into Russia, which could earn the Russian government $20 million dollars if approved.

Adamov has been replaced by Alexandr Rumyantsev (pronounced Room-yant-sev), previously the director of the Kurchatov Institute, which was the first and largest USSR center for nuclear weapons design.

* A New Mexico Senator Jeff Bingaman wrote to President Bush this week asking the President to resume the program to compensate uranium workers and townspeople in the Four Corners area that are ill due to their exposure to radiation in the 1940s and 50s. The letter also asked the President for $84 million in emergency funding to pay workers who have qualified for compensation, but have not yet received a check.

The government is supposed to pay 3, 637 sick uranium workers and townspeople exposed to radiation $150,000 each, plus medical costs, under the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act. The Act was passed in 1990, and amended in the year 2000.

Senator Bingaman said, "There should be no excuses if this program continues to be administered in a way that brings further anguish and suffering to the thousands of individuals who have suffered from exposure to radiation as a result of the federal government's nuclear . . . program." The uranium mines in the Four Corners area provided the bulk of the uranium needed for production of nuclear weapons during the Cold War, and maintained the economy of the area for many years.

Due to Senator Bingaman's letter, the President recommended that $710 million be added to the ailing program. The budget that the President proposed in February did not include money for compensation of the workers. However, Richard Emery, of the budget review board, claims that the money was in the blueprints for the budget, and the oversight was not an actual change in policy.

The Justice Department has awarded more than $270 million to approved claimants. After the funding for the program ran out, the government issued 179 IOUs to the claimants. The proposed contribution by Bush would pay for the remaining IOUs and ensure future funding for the program.

Back to News Index