Information distributed by the world press about talks between the USA, Japan and Mongolia to store their nuclear spent fuel in Mongolia has caused the country to strengthen
its legislation prohibiting such activity. Article 4.1 of Mongolia’s law on nuclear energy has a clause saying, “To ban import of dangerous waste to Mongolia with the purpose to exploit, store and eradicate” and 4.2 of the law has a clause saying, “To ban transport of dangerous waste through Mongolian territory”. The Foreign Affairs Ministry initiated adding a new clause to ban the repository and importation of nuclear waste as an adjustment to the law and worked-out a bill in collaboration with relevant organizations. Foreign Minister G.Zandanshatar said the bill will soon be discussed at the cabinet meeting.
Mongolia’s mass media clarified the issue with relevant officials in accordance with information distributed by the world’s bigger news agencies such as Reuters, CNN and Japan’s Mainichi newspaper and distributed the position of Mongolia’s officials. Authorities of the Foreign Affairs Ministry, Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) and Mon-Atom state-run company all denied this information and affirmed that Mongolia’s government has not held any talks on burying nuclear spent fuel with any one nor is there legal basis for any such activity.
Dornod Aimag’s vast plains are the location for controversy
“There has not been any official talk with the USA and Japan about storing nuclear waste in Mongolia. No such proposal has been put forward to our side,” said A. Undraa, Ambassador at Large, the Foreign Affairs Ministry of Mongolia.
The government Nuclear Energy Agency, responsible for issues of urranium, radioactive materials, and nuclear energy, expressed its strict position that it is impossible for Mongolia to store other’s waste in its own land. S. Enkhbat, head of the NEA said, “Actually, it is obligatory to have a clause about storage in the agreement to sell nuclear fuel.
Mongolians are not stupid to store other countries nuclear waste if they do not buy nuclear fuel from Mongolia. It is true that nuclear waste is stored at a high cost; however, we cannot ignore other concerns in order to gain money. Even if an agreement is reached to store others’ nuclear waste in Mongolia, a public referendum will be first be conducted on this issue. It will be resolved by people themselves.
It is an important issue. Additionally,permission would have to be taken from international organizations.
Would they agree? Nuclear waste is the raw materials for weapons.Mongolia internationally declared that it is a nuclear-weapon free country that will not produce nuclear weapons and will only exploit uranium for peaceful purposes. Therefore, there is no need to store dangerous waste in Mongolia”.
He firmly denies information that official talks on a nuclear waste repository were held. “In the event the issue regarding uranium, radioactive and nuclear materials is officially discussed, the NEA makes a decision on behalf of the government. If there is any issue beyond our agency’s power, that issue would be discussed and resolved by the Nuclear Energy Commission headed by the Prime Minister of Mongolia. Our agency is responsible to know all the issues regarding the nuclear energy sector and there has no instance at all of our government holding any talks, made any preliminarily agreement,or contract for storing nuclear waste.I can not deny that the head of a company or individual might have such a talk. Our country is democratic.This means someone can have such a discussion with someone, anywhere.However, Mongolia’s nuclear energy law bans the import and transport of dangerous nuclear waste through Mongolian territory. Therefore, if someone makes such talk, government will not abide by the talk or endorse storing the waste. Suppose, someone has such talk with Japan and the USA,it is impossible to implement it,” said S. Enkhbat in his interview.
The Global Security Newswire quoted a senior U.S. diplomat as saying that “The Obama administration has held informal talks with Mongolia about the possibility that the Central Asian nation might host an international repository for its region’s spent nuclear fuel. U.S. Energy Department officials and their counterparts in Ulaanbaatar, the Mongolian capital, are in the early stages of discussion and there has been no determination yet about whether
to proceed with the idea, according to Richard Stratford, Director of the State Department’s Nuclear Energy, Safety and Security Office”.
“Late in March, the highlevel USA official from the State Department talked very irresponsibly about the issue. Next, Japan’s Mainichi Newspaper published it.It is unethical and improper for an official of the USA government talking irresponsibly and carelessly about things. Therefore, we held a meeting with the US Ambassador to Mongolia and officially expressed our aversion and sensitivity about this informaiton. In response, a letter came to the Foreign Ministry from the US State Department, saying, “The speech and acts by Richard Stratford,Director of State Department’s Nuclear Energy, Safety and Security
Office, is not the official position of the US Government. We regret the circumstances and are certain it will not flaw bilateral relations between the two countries”, said A. Undraa.
Regarding internationally distributed information, MPs D. Enkhbat, Ts. Sedvanchig, G.Bayarsaikhan and N. Batbayar offered some queries to Prime Minister S.Batbold on the current position of the government on nuclear waste, and put forward a request to scrutinize whether the information on secretly storing nuclear waste in Mongolia is true.
Mongolia has currently been identified to have over 74 thousand tonne of uranium and preliminarily estimations show the potential for 1.5 million tonne of uranium reserve.Uranium geological exploration and prospecting has been conducted in north eastern, south eastern and southern Mongolia or Dornod,Dornogobi, Dundgobi and Khentii Aimags, especially in the Dornod area with the State Budget. The reserve estimations were conducted based on exploration. Khairkhan’s uranium deposit reserve was officially registered in 2010. The Minerals Council intends to discuss the issues of two deposits in the near future.
Currently, there are 120 companies with licenses for uranium exploration and no companies have license for mining uranium.