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TV Channel One (Russia)//
V.POZNER: So the question I promised. On March 19 you stated as follows: "I said long ago that the Fukushima accident did not pose a threat to Russia under either conditions. And now, all the more so it does not." Would you explain, please, why you are strong on it?
S.KIRIENKO: Firstly, I am ready to state once again because the issue remains. We were preparing for this live and girls who organized the show secretly asked me that question in the make-up room: "What is on air is on air. But tell us whether it is really dangerous?"
I say everybody: it's absolutely safe. We did calculations, with our assessment given to them on the very first day, not on the 19-th of March, but on the 12-th of March, the very next day after the incident. At that time we were largely lacking of data which were provided by the Japanese. Now we have all information from them, Americans, IAEA. We did not have it that time. We had to gather all our specialists and just model all potential events. We had to calculate worst events not because we are pessimists (thank Heaven it did not happen and will not happen), but we calculated all worst case scenarios which could only happen. So even under the worst case scenarios, all risks were limited to the area around the nuclear power plant itself. The question was of whether it is a 30-km or 150-km area? But there was no threat. We calculated worst possibilities of wind turning to Far East of Russia, a situation when wind approached and it rained, i.e. the worst things that could be anticipated.
Even in these cases the particles... Certainly, some micro-particles reach, they are recorded now, they periodically appear in California or China or somewhere else. They start saying: "Here, we have trapped a micro-particle." But you should also say how much this particle is as compared with natural background. What is recorded today by systems is one million, sometimes one billion times less than the background. Not a level that is hazardous for health, but the natural background. So we will record the particles because each country has a very accurate monitoring system; it is made to trace whether anyone has tested a nuclear weapon. Therefore, along Far East there are very accurate monitoring systems; the Americans on their side have the same systems of monitoring and we are watching each other as to anybody have done a nuclear test. And we are capable of recording particles which are billionth fractions of the natural background. Of cause, we will record such particles because they will spread, but they are much more less than real impacts we are affected in normal life like airplane flight, medical examinations, watching TV and all other things. In other words, there is a normal level of radiation man lives with. The level that can approach some place in Far East of Russia is absolutely incomparable with that man lives with in normal environment. Therefore, I state absolutely responsible and strong: there is no any threat to Far East of Russia under any scenarios.
V.POZNER: Well. Let's remember these words. I don't see any grounds not to believe, but of the other hand, all of us remember Chernobyl when they did not tell us at all that the accident had occurred, when the May Day demonstration was held under rain, which was somewhat radioactive. And this disbelief to authorities... It has come from there and disappears nowhere.
S.KIRIENKO: Yes, you are absolutely correct, it is exactly from there. That is why there is only one way that is maximum openness of the information and nothing more; this is a fundamental condition of existence of the nuclear industry.
V.POZNER: And not only.
S.KIRIENKO: Especially nuclear, because of fears. The roots are even not in Chernobyl, the roots are in the bomb. Atom came to people's minds with the bomb and the bomb is fearsome, so danger comes from there.
V.POZNER: I don't doubt that when there was a blast at Fukushima and the President and Prime Minister and so forth approached your organization to get a forecast of what would happen and what way it could develop. By days: tomorrow, day after tomorrow, in a week, 10 days. Please, tell how accurate your forecasts were as compared with the course of events? Did they agree? It's interesting how accurate can you be in making them.
S.KIRIENKO: Practically, absolutely accurate. This is not the best event to check on operability and quality of specialists and performance of systems. But, however, this is what Vladimir Vladimirovich [Putin] was saying at the Far East meeting he chaired. All forecasts we reported to the country's leadership, agreed perfectly. Our specialists did not make a single mistake and this is rather an issue of competence. These are the basic knowledge we were talking about in the first part of the show, a level of competence of specialists. Not only Rosatom's specialists, because we gathered a panel for this task, a panel of specialists from Rosatom, Academy of Sciences and Kurchatov Institute. We gathered the best force. These people's competence is such that the calculations we did with very limited information are confirmed now by real pictures obtained from both Japan and the IAEA. Last week, I spent a day in the US and we were matching our assessments with the colleagues. It is not a secret that the Americans, since this is their design and they have other relations with the Japanese, were getting incomparably larger amount of information, especially at the first time. By the way, we could get much from them, generally speaking, they were sharing information. So basing on more extensive information they started their supercomputer centers and did corresponding models and calculations. And these fully agree with projects and assessments of the situation development the Russian specialists made already on the very first day.
V.POZNER: Do you think our authorities have learned how to speak with people at least on this issue? Have they got it that people should be told what is really happening?
S.KIRIENKO: Yes, I'm absolutely confident in this. This is confirmed by events which are taken place. I can speak about nuclear industry. We learned this without waiting for Fukushima to occur. There has been a radiation monitoring system, which had no analogues, on the Internet for two years already. There are detectors around each nuclear facility. These detectors are sealed and measure radiation level with different frequency - some once in hour, other once in 10 minutes, and send the data to the central control boards at Rosatom and EMERGCOM. So we posted these detectors on free access Internet. They are linked automatically, and there is no a dispatcher. Nobody can affect their readings. But anybody can view them.
What happened to us? We had a case where at each nuclear facility regularly, about twice a year, as usual in spring, there was a person who posted a "Radiation release" message and panic started. Usually that took 3-5 days and then people got to understand that that were lies and everything calmed down. We have not had such cases for two years, since these detectors appeared on the Internet. Any gossip or any rumor... Man, he may not believe officials but he can enter the Internet and view all detectors. The address is www.russianatom.ru.
V.POZNER: Wonderful. Regarding mass media, my colleagues. There are many specialists who say that we are to blame for, to a certain extent, the hysteria, highlighting danger. And because we are not very good at something or looking for hot topics, it happens what happens. We have just had chance to hear something that something had happened somewhere, and release it fast and, maybe, not very accurate. What is your assessment of the work? In this case I refer to the Russian media in relation to what happened in Japan, not to tsunami and earthquake but to the Fukushima accident?
S.KIRIENKO: I appreciate the Russian colleague-journalists, because it required caused of special correspondents who stayed in Japan and broadcasted on events. Though, they were afraid not less, but maybe even more than others. If in Far East there had been no any threat from the very beginning, it was in Japan. Under plausible worst case scenarios, a threat could be in Tokyo. Therefore, the people who continued working there, induce colossal respect with me.
By the way, we have agreed with heads of Russian mass media that when their correspondents are back, they will be able to pass a medical check in our specialized medical establishments. We are confident that everything is alright, but this will remove worries of both the journalists and media that seconded them.
I think it was an objective and balanced assessment. Another issue is a level of the lack of knowledge... I don't think that this is what we can reproach the media for. I would rather reproach us. This means that we did not work hard to make this information available. Of cause, a lack of knowledge often lead to cases like one I've mentioned where a recorded billionth fraction fuzzed up to an event. I was in Washington DC on Wednesday. When I arrived, they were tizzy because of beyond-permissible doses had been found in tab water in Tokyo. But you start sorting it out, it turns out to be an issue of basic knowledge. Because what the found in the Tokyo tab water was... they set forth nutrition guidelines for babies, 100 becquerels. Generally, I believe babies should not be fed with tab water. So they found 200 becquerels per liter. For comparison, in Norway the child's food guideline is 370, or four times higher. And what was in the Tokyo tab water at one location was twice lower than the Norway guidelines for the child's food.
V.POZNER: What about today's report that a radiation level in water directly in the region or in the reactor has jumped up by one million times and that is... one million times or several million times. You've just heard this by several million times and what it means for you is horror, catastrophe.
S.KIRIENKO: This is in the reactor. In fact, it is better not to be at the nuclear power plant. It's true. What has actually happen at the nuclear power plant? Since no water was supplied because of the water intake collapse, fuel melted in the reactor. There is a risk that one of the reactors has lost integrity and some of this fuel or melt could get into water firemen had poured. Therefore, there are very high values within the reactor containment now. Yes, these values can be one thousand, one million times higher the guideline, the natural background. Because in a normal situation a radiation level at the plant is even lower than in the room where we are now. But this means special arrangements of operations. Because even given the work arrangements available there today, maximum doses the rescue and emergency people have are substantially lower than a real threat to health. Therefore, we can say for sure that if in accidents brought about by the same earthquake to oil refineries and chemical plants hundreds of people have died, and trains washed by tsunami have taken thousands of human lives... Given the tenseness of the events at Fukushima nuclear power plant, five people died, but nobody died due to radiation. These 5 people were killed by a hydrogen blast, i.e. this is rather an industrial cause. And I am almost sure that the situation would depend on whether random errors are made during rescue operations... And if everything is organized in the way the Japanese are doing today, there will not be a single dead person due to the Fukushima plant accident. Major loss and key danger of the Fukushima incident is of a psychological nature. This damage is colossal.
V.POZNER: This means the word "kamikaze" is not applicable to people who work there and, they say, work heroically? Because a kamikaze always dies.
S.KIRIENKO: No, it is not; it is not the appropriate word at all. But I would like to say that this should not diminish respect towards these people. Because not only nuclear specialists who understand what they are dealing with have gone there. The Tokyo firemen who don't know what it is have gone there. For sure, they were afraid when they went there; and they induce colossal respect. I think these people can be called heroes. But they certainly cannot be called kamikaze. I am confident, all of them will survive.
V.POZNER: Germany. A moratorium was declared at 17 nuclear power plants there and then extended for 17 plants, while 7 plants appear to be finally closed. This is a reaction to the civil commotion. First, how do you feel about this? What would it mean for Germany? And, more to the point: maybe we should close our plants out of harm's way? Because there are many people here who say: "You see what a scary thing it is. It's better to fire coal (or anything else) but we don't need this."
S.KIRIENKO: Let's start from Germany. It's quite clear what it is. Before the Fukushima events, in German there had been a traditional public opinion showing more than half of country's population thinking that there was no need to develop large-scale nuclear power. This is the reality. After the Fukushima events, this opinion has apparently grown and the elections are nearing in Germany. They are having a ruling coalition, and given the fact that this coalition includes the Green Party which is opposing nuclear, this coalition has always been very reserved towards nuclear. This will be of somewhat middle-of-the-road nature in conditions of the elections.
What would happen next? I'm not in the position to comment on internal political affairs of Germany, therefore, I just express my expert viewpoint. It's their right; let it be as they'll decide. But, in fact, if Germany tasks itself to close down nuclear seriously, not just in the forefront of the situation resulted from the public opinion and upcoming elections, this is possible. But! This will lead to a substantial rise of electricity prices in the country and loss of competitiveness of the German industry. The German ministers have already started speaking about this, along with a number of industrialists who say: "Look, to cater the public opinion today is certainly a good thing for the pre-election tactics, but if one thinks not only about tomorrow's elections but also about the day-after-tomorrow's life of the country, he has to find answers for several questions. What would be with the country's competitiveness, it is one thing?" Some time ago they ran into such thing in Italy. One of former Italian prime ministers said in my hearing that he was still confident that it had been a special operation financed by oil companies to close down nuclear in Italy; the thing that set Italy back in terms of competitiveness of both the power generation and industry, because a whole bunch of technologies shrink... And one more question, which has been already asked by a number of politicians in Germany. They asked: "Colleagues, wouldn't it turn out so that we will close a nuclear power plant now and then will be receiving electricity from the French nuclear power plant located along the border with Germany?" Because France has already stated it isn't going to phase out nuclear power; simply they are going to build up-to-date reactors faster, as we are.
The up-to-date reactors are fully protected, and if such reactor is taken to the Fukushima location (though, I have mentioned that a few human creations are capable of withstanding a disaster of that force), an up-to-date reactor is capable of withstanding this. Therefore, the issue of responsibility, not only up-to-the-second, but long-term responsibility. And I would add one more thing as relates to Russia. This is the issue related to the fact that atomic energy is not just nuclear power plants. Atomic energy is the entire
And, frankly speaking, in terms of future, you know, I wouldn't claim atomic energy the best of energies. Of cause, not. Any energy has its merits and deficiencies. Yes, it requires highest competence. Since this is colossal energy; it requires respect in harnessing it. It would be more correct to say balance. There should be the right balance in power generation. But if we speak about future energy (and this energy will appear), it's difficult to say now what energy it would be - fusion or hydrogen... But it's absolutely clear that the path to it runs through development of nuclear in terms of technology, level of knowledge and competences of specialists. There is no anything else. A country which is phasing out nuclear today, becomes dependent on those who will not phase it out, because in future we will be buying such technologies from those who will not phase out nuclear and will be developing it.
V.POZNER: In your professional background you don't bear any relation to nuclear physics. As far as I understand, you used to be a shipbuilder. Is this correct?
S.KIRIENKO: This is correct. Though, I bore some relation to it, i.e. I started at Krasnoye Sormovo works from building nuclear submarines. But this is an indirect relation.
V.POZNER: In 2005, when you were appointed, President Putin said: "It is not an objective that he (i.e. you) become a nuclear specialist. His (i.e. your) task is to organize the industry." That's how the matter was put. One does not have to be a nuclear physicist to put this thing in order deep down? It is not necessary to understand these processes?
S.KIRIENKO: It'd better to understand. It'd better to understand, since I spent a lot of time to prepare for it. It is not a secret now. In due course time, Vladimir Vladimirovich [Putin] warned me about this appointment about a year before. And in a year in advance I found a person who was a professional nuclear physicist and he was doing lectures for me for a year. Since I was not able to go to a normal institute (the information was confidential) but I had lectures for a year, I read the entire history of the nuclear industry. Generally, I had an opportunity to get ready. And in spite of the fact that I am a technical specialist, I have a technical, engineering background, this made easier for me to do self-study, but still it means the following. It means that when making any managerial decisions I understand the boundary between where I can decide proceeding my understanding and judgment of the situation and where I will never do this without basing on an opinion from experts.
By the way, this is a tradition of the nuclear industry. Given the fact that it has always been very rigid and controlled in a centralized manner since Minsredmash [Ministry of Medium Machine Engineering of the USSR], it has featured an outmost implementation practice. It has remained in many respects. This is the thing that ensures the nuclear industry safety today. But the liberty of opinion when discussing things - a system of science and technology boards, a logic assuming that each specialist's opinion has to be heard and any substantive decision is worked out through a consensus of professionals and specialist, and only after the managers adopt binding decisions - this culture has been always maintained and retained in nuclear.
V.POZNER: If you don't mind, we'll speak about you a bit. You said once: "The winner is the one who invents the rules." Do you invent them? You win, after all? Or not?
S.KIRIENKO: Take the full quote. I'll recollect. By the way, it's not my quote; somebody of the Soviet science fiction writers coined it. In full, it sounds like: "In a no-rule-game, he wins who invents the rules." And this is an important, substantive thing. In my view, it speaks about following. In a situation when you enter a new space where there are no rules and many things are unclear, the winner is the one who is the first to set... In some sense, the leader wins, the one who doesn't join but sets the rules and the system. Undoubtedly, this is true because of that in many respects...
We were talking about, for example, why Japan is an advanced country. I set to claim that it has never been a leader in nuclear power. This is because of that, because the leadership was with the countries who started from building the shield: the USA and the Soviet Union. This created a huge school. One of the nuclear industry father-founders, Academician Alexandrov used to say: "We must always know 10 times more than we use today." So this potential is utilized now.
27 / 03 / 2011
An interview of Sergey Kirienko with Vladimir Pozner on TV Channel One (Russia) (continuation)
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