CEO of a Mongolian NGO ‘Blue Banner” answers to the 9 Questions of the Mongolian Observer regarding nuclear waste management issue which was the focus of attention of the public in Mongolia last few weeks.
A new bill was submitted on banning entry into Mongolian territory of spent fuel and radioactive waste. What is this bill about any way, very briefly?
The bill is quite important. There are, however, two points that we cannot overlook. Firstly, it’s not clear what next if the provisions in the proposed bill are different from the international conventions and protocols that Mongolian plans to ratify. Article 10.3 of the Constitution says, “The international treaties to which Mongolia is a Party, shall become effective as domestic legislation upon the entry into force of the laws on their ratification or accession.” And many other legislation say that “If the provisions in the Mongolian law is different from that in international treaties, them the provisions in the international treaties shall be complied with.” Secondly, if Mongolia happens to produce spent fuel and nuclear and radioactive waste, then it would not have any choice other than to dump them on our own territory, and this is how the bill can be interpreted from a legal stand point of view.
Do we at all have any legislation framework related to nuclear and radioactive waste?
No, we don’t. But from the standpoint of national legislation, we have legislations on nuclear-weapons free status, waste, hygiene, as well as state policy on ecology passed by the Parliament, Government approved rules and regulations on classifying, collecting, packing, temporary dumping, transporting, rendering harmless, preserving and disposing of hazardous wastes. There are also related provisions in the rules and regulations on radioactive safety in exploring and studying radioactive minerals, as well as in the Government Plan of Action for the years 2012-2016.
Nuclear waste issue almost divided the public into two. Your comments please?
I don’t think the public was divided into two because of this particular issue. I believe that the Mongolian citizens are, in principle, unanimous regarding the banning of the import of nuclear waste. There are people with contradictory stance and opinions regarding uranium mining and atomic power station construction.
What is the link between the nuclear-weapons-free status proclaimed by Mongolia and the issue of nuclear waste?
The link between the two lies in the fact that since Mongolia will not deploy any nuclear weapon on its territory, then there should not be the issue of waste combining from nuclear warhead either.
With Mongolia’s ratification of international conventions and protocols, all activities related to the illegal transport and transit of nuclear wastes would stop and be banned. I am sure we do not have such activities?
This is the crux of the matter. Many people are asking, since Mongolia does not produce any nuclear waste, why does it want to ratify the international conventions and protocols that are intended to regulate nuclear waste issue. There must be another reason they suspect, because by ratifying these instruments, Mongolia wants to either enrich uranium or built an atomic power station, for which it will import nuclear fuel. And the proposed legislation and planned ratification, people suspect, are going to form the legal framework for this.
How does Mongolia benefit by ratifying the Small Quantities Protocol (SQP) since the country does not have any nuclear cyclical activity?
This protocol has almost nothing to do with either uranium mining or construction of an atomic station. A key matter is that the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) wants countries without nuclear equipment or minimal nuclear materials to accede to the Protocols.
A special session of the Parliament, called to consider Mongolia’s accession to the conventions and protocols, was adjourned without the session ever being held. What good would these conventions and protocols ratification do to Mongolia?
Mongolians also say ‘look before you leap.’ I could not understand why such a rush to ratify them when we have not even started producing uranium and the question of building an atomic station has not yet been finalized, other than ‘pleasing’ someone prior to an international forum.
It would have been important and meaningful had the Parliament passed the Law on banning the import through Mongolia’s border of spent fuel, nuclear and radioactive waste. If it is ever possible, we should include the following provision in the bill which says that “If this law contradicts with the international treaties and conventions, then from the standpoint of Mongolia’s national security interests, the provisions in the Mongolian law would be complied with.” But such a possibility is totally ruled out.
Do you think there would be a back-lash because the Parliament has not been able to consider the ratification issue at its last special session?
I don’t think there’d be a backlash. Mongolia is a small country. For the time being, it would be good enough for Mongolia to strengthen its nuclear-weapon-free status. We are observing that of late Mongolia is actively engaging in major global issues and is trying to become a key player in them. There is no need to beg for risks and dangers that are far away from us.
What is the position of your NGO Blue Banner on this matter?
The Blue Banner non-governmental organization carries out activities to support the state’s nuclear-weapon-free policy. In view of this, the issue of ratification of the conventions and protocols have almost nothing to do with our NGO. Whatever the case, our Board neither discussed nor exchanged opinions on this matter. There isn’t any need to do so either. I am sure every-one has his or own thought about the matter.