Macedonia Constructs Nuclear Waste Dump in Secret

By Natasa Dokovska

SKOPJE, Macedonia, April 25, 2005 (ENS) - The Ministry of Environmental Protection and Spatial Planning is constructing a nuclear waste dump in the new community of Petrovec, near Skopje. Unannounced, the ministry is building the facility only three kilometers (two miles) from the Skopje airport, on the site of the Cojlija military airport.

The residents of this village and of 14 other local communities have made the existence of the dump public, and they say it is almost finished. These citizens and activists in environmental nongovernmental organizations say that the dump will be filled with radioactive waste imported from other countries.

While protesting the construction of the nuclear waste dump, the activists say it is not first such waste disposal facility in Macedonia. In the period of conflict in the late 1990s, they say, this kind of dump was constructed in several places where NATO soldiers were stationed.

Petrovec

British Chinook helicopters complete a refuelling run at Petrovec and move back to Kosovo with supplies. June 12, 1999 (Photo courtesy NATO KFOR)
The citizens who live near the dump are reacting against the facility and are joining environmental activists to organize a big demonstration in the front of the government buildings in Skopje.

The country's largest environmental nongovernmental organization, the Movement of Environmentalists of Macedonia (DEM), is strongly opposed to construction of the dump. The group accused the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Spatial Planning of failing to provide timely information about the project to the general public.

DEM is worried about the lack of transparency on the part of the ministry, as well as about the fact that no environmental impact study for construction of the radioactive dump was ever done.

They are asking the ministry what kind of waste materials will be placed in the dump and in what quantities, and they are requesting information on the positive or negative effect on the environment of the dump's operations.

Concerned after their efforts to construct the nuclear waste dump in Petrovec was discovered, the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Spatial Planning has stopped all construction activities at the dump site.

In their official statement, finally released last week, responsible officials in the ministry say that this dump should be in use for a period of 10 to 15 years.

Officials confirmed to the public that they want to construct this dump, but they strongly denied that radioactive waste exists in Macedonia.