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Will Mongolia Become the New Yucca Mountain?

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News that Mongolia was planning to import and store nuclear waste from other countries began making he rounds recently.

Agence France-Presse reported last week, (link via, that "Japan and the United States are eyeing a plan to jointly construct an underground nuclear waste storage complex in Mongolia, a newspaper report said Monday. Under the deal being considered, the three countries would build a facility to stock and dispose of nuclear waste several hundred metres deep," quoting the Mainichi Shimbun newspaper.

In return for taking what no other reasonable country in the free world would dream of accepting, "Mongolia would receive technological support of the nuclear power industries from the two countries," according to the paper's sources.

But an article in what appears to be the country's official news service (the "About Us" section reads, simply: "Бидний тухай") has the Mongolian embassy in Vienna flatly denying everything:

"The country"s 2009 nuclear energy law 'does not envisage import of nuclear waste from other countries,' said a statement from the embassy in the Austrian capital, where the U.N. nuclear agency is based," the piece, which was published on Өнөөдөр 8 цаг 46 минут, reads.

Whether or not Mongolia ultimately takes the radioactive waste in exchange for the know-how to create a toxic disposal problem of its very own, remains to be seen. What is for certain, however, is that importing nuclear waste is big business for those so inclined.

In 2001, Russia's lower house of parliament passed a bill paving the way for radioactive imports after the country's Atomic Energy Ministry "it could earn up to 20 billion by importing 20,000 metric tons (22,000 short tons) of spent nuclear fuel over 10 years -- and use part of the money to clean up Russian regions polluted by radioactive waste from the Soviet-era nuclear program," according to the Associated Press.

Belgium resumed the importation of radioactive waste recently, accepting 120 tons from Germany after a 20-year moratorium on the practice.

However, it's the countries that are really hurting, really down-at-the-mouth, really between a financial rock and a hard place, that benefit most from taking others' glowing garbage.

For example, when Italy needed to dispose of 1,600 tons of radioactive waste, they looked to a place that practically couldn't say no.


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