Saratov Case Study

By Olga Deryabina and Mark Mamrykine (ECOLOGIA-International in Russia)
Edited by Laurel Kritkausky (ECOLOGIA USA)

In the Saratov region, ECOLOGIA supports citizen involvement in decision-making about the construction of an additional two nuclear reactors at one of the largest nuclear power plants in Europe. The new reactors are scheduled to test MOX fuel technologies.


The Balakovo nuclear power plant (NPP) is one of the largest in Europe. Balakovo NPP has four VVER-1000 reactors. In the late 1990s there were plans to construct two more reactors there as well. However, as a result of public opposition in 1990-92 and a local referendum the construction of the additional units was stopped. But in 1998-99 Minatom (the Ministry of Nuclear Energy) initiated the construction again, which is closely connected to its plans to utilize MOX fuel.

MOX is an abbreviation for Mixed OXide, a mixture of depleted uranium and reprocessed plutonium which can be used as a fuel in some nuclear reactors.   The Russian and US governments have agreed to dispose of weapons-grade plutonium, especially from dismantled nuclear weapons, in MOX fuel. These new reactors on the Balakovo NPP are scheduled to be used for testing the MOX fuel technology.

The Saratov Oblast Administration is lobbying for the construction, but the Oblast Duma and the city authorities keep a neutral position. There have been no official surveys of public opinion since the 1992 referendum. However, it is understood that people who work at or dependent on the nuclear plant for their livelihood are concerns about their jobs, while others in the area are more concerned about safety issues. No information is publicly available about who is financing this project.

Balakovo NPP is situated in the town of Balakovo on the Volga River. It is in the Saratov region about 900 km (559 miles) southeast of Moscow.

The Nuclear Communities Project

The Nuclear Communities in Transition project began work in the Saratov region in 1999 and concluded at the end of 2000. The project’s work in this region is focused capacity building for local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and on providing citizens and NGOs with access to information about local nuclear issues.

ECOLOGIA-International and its regional partners from the Saratov region initiated the creation of an association of citizens living near the Balakovo nuclear power plant. The Rosk Zone Association is a tool for creating a public dialogue in a wide sense and is focused on the following objectives:

  1. Increasing the level of information and enlightenment of the general public in the 30 km (19 mile) zone around nuclear power plants;
  2. Developing a public dialogue about nuclear issues; discussing a regional energy supply strategy; making a consensus between the public and local authorities;
  3. Strengthening public involvement in the process of decision-making on nuclear energy use;
  4. Creating a non-governmental structure which could counteract Minatom's plans.

The Risk Zone Association was created in November 2000 at a Conference in Balakovo.

Local project partner

Our partner in the Saratov region is the Centre for Environmental Initiatives. The main priorities of the Centre are:

  • providing the general public with access to environmental information;
  • NGO (grassroots) capacity building;
  • public environmental review and environmental management
  • strengthening anti-nuclear movement; and
  • environmental enlightening.

The organization was officially established in 1993. Earlier, the members of the Centre worked together as an informal group of activists.


ECOLOGIA worked in Saratov in a one-year collaboration with its regional partner. Work began in the fall of 1999 and ended in the fall of 2000. Since the fall of 2000, ECOLOGIA has concentrated its efforts in Russia on the Rostov and Tomsk regions.


1. Pitsunova O.N. Zharkov O.Y. 2000. Balakovskaya AES: 15 let riska. Saratov: Centr sodeistviya ekologicheskim initsiativam.

2. Loeke Pam, Joop Boer and Dirk Bannink. "The dangers and risks of the use of mixed oxide fuel” (The MOX Myth).

May 2001.

Last updated: May 2001         Please make comments & report problems to the