Архив за месяц: Август 2011

New Water Monitoring Station Near Hailaer-Dalai Diversion Canal

According to the China Ministry of Environmental Protection two new automatic stations for water quality monitoring have been constructed and have passed six-months probation period.  Both stations are important for controlling water quality at transboundary Argun River. One station is on Genhe River at Datieqiao, the other one is on Hailaer river at Chuogang town — 5 kilometers upstream from water intake structures for Hailaer-Dalai Water Transfer Canal.  This is a critically important location to monitor hydrological regime and water quality for waters going to Russian border and now also diverted to Dalai Lake.  Chuogang Station data has been reflected in national  reports since June 2011 and for 10 weeks in a row shows low water quality of class IV and V. This is no surprise given high number of  new and old industrial and agriculture production units in the  Hailaer River basin upstream.


Russian delegation  at  Hailaer-Dalai canal water intake, June 2011.

On a Monument to the Marmot

The Pigeon is dead but the Marmot is alive!!!


An unusual but timely monument was inaugurated by authorities in uranium-mining town of Krasnokamensk, which lands border best wetlands of upper Argun River. It is dedicated to all marmots exterminated by poisoning in 1939-1956 under largely false suspicion that they disseminate infectious plague. Thousands of lifeless mounds above empty burrows were left throughout Dauria Steppe reminding that this grassland was once full of these joyful rodents known as Marmota sibirica or Tarbag in Mongolian.

The monument features two marmots, one of which is a famous archer- Tarbag Mergen converted into marmot for boasting according to Mongolian legend, and another one is marmot-miner — initial symbol of the Krasnokamensk.


Fortunately, unlike Passenger Pigeon mourned by Oldo Leopold in his famous essay, the Siberian Marmot is still alive despite being prosecuted for spreading infection, having delicious meat and carrying quite popular pelts. However nowadays this beast is much less abundant throughout its former range and the author of the monument Alexander Pilnikov is urging Krasnokamensk authorities to create captive breeding facility for marmots to facilitate reestablishment their populations in Dauria.

Rephrasing the famous piece by Leopold we say: «We have erected a monument to symbolize our hope for survival of this species. «

EN+ refuses to talk to Rivers without boundaries

 South China Morning Post  published Eric Ng’s  new article «Russian to relaunch HK debut next year» on attempts of Eurosibenergo to raise money for hydropower development in Russia and its claims about «highest environmental standards».

EuroSibEnergo (ESE), the power unit of Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska’s energy and resources conglomerate EN+ Group, plans to relaunch its shelved Hong Kong initial public offering next year while it pushes ahead with feasibility studies on proposed power projects in Siberia with China Yangtze Power.

Russia’s largest privately owned power producer is also holding discussions with environmental groups to address their concerns about potential damage to the environment from the planned damming of ecologically sensitive rivers in East Siberia, according to EN+ deputy chief executive Jivko Savov — although two such groups deny having been consulted.

«Certainly next year is on the cards, but I don’t have a specific date,» Savov said of the listing. «Globally, investors are taking a wait-and- see stance. Our IPO is not driven by external factors so we can [wait].»

The company shelved its IPO in November last year and again in March this year, due to a lack of interest in the firm’s shares at its offer price, and unfavourable regulatory changes in Russia’s power market. It had hoped to raise up to US$1.5 billion, much of which was intended for the retirement of a US$1.4 billion loan owed to Russia’s Sberbank.

A successful float would allow it to restructure debt and cut hefty interest rates on a five-year loan refinancing agreement signed during the 2009 global financial crisis. It was estimated by listing underwriter BOC International to have a net debt-to-shareholders’ equity ratio of 146 per cent at the end of last year.

According to another underwriter, VTB Capital, the interest rate on the loan was to rise from five per cent last year to eight per cent this year and to 19 per cent next year before falling gradually to 11.3 per cent in 2015. The bank was also entitled to up to an extra one per cent per year on the loan amount as long as the aluminium price exceeded US$2,000 a tonne — as it has for most of the time since the refinancing. Aluminium smelters are a major customer.

But Savov said debt refinancing «was never the major driving force behind the IPO,» adding that the key objective was company development. Strong operating profit growth this year and last year meant the company could «afford … to wait for a year or longer» before refinancing.

Still, he noted an unexpected cut in power prices for generators and new caps on price hikes by distributors earlier this year — widely seen as a move by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to appease voters ahead of next year’s presidential elections — has dented investor confidence in Russia’s power sector.

The price cut for generators meant they had to wait one to two years longer to get back their investment, he said.

«But the fundamentals of the market have not changed, Russia still needs to upgrade and build more power facilities,» he said, adding ESE, as the only power producer in Russia not bound by obligatory power plant construction, fared better than its mostly state-backed rivals under less favourable tariff regulation.

While waiting for the right window to go public in Hong Kong, Savov said ESE was doing pre-feasibility studies on a natural gas-fired power project with up to 1,200 megawatts of capacity, and two hydro-power plants with a combined capacity of 1,000 MW to 2,400 MW. They are being studied by Yes Energo, a joint venture with Shanghai-listed state-backed China Yangtze Power, the nation’s largest hydropower producer.

Last March, environmental groups including Rivers Without Boundaries, Greenpeace Russia, WWF Russia, and the International Socio-ecological Union, wrote to Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing calling for the exchange, bankers, and investors, to abstain from participating in ESE’s listing. They said the damming of downstream rivers had caused shore erosion and damaged spawning grounds near Lake Baikal, a Unesco World Heritage site.

Savov said ESE was in discussions with various national and international environmental groups.

«Specific issues need to be addressed because we are in the early stages of feasibility work,» Savov said. «There are variations [in] where exactly we can build the plants.»

He added that ESE could be more specific towards the end of the year when pre-feasibility work would be completed, and said the company’s track record in adhering to local standards was «extremely good».

Greenpeace Russia energy unit head Vladimir Chuprov and Rivers Without Boundaries co-ordinator Eugene Simonov said the groups had not received a response from ESE to their concerns and were not consulted. Simonov said Rivers Without Boundaries’ request to visit ESE’s Irkutsk hydro plant was rejected.

He said the proposal by ESE and China Yangtze to build the fifth hydro-power station on the Angara River would hurt wildlife.

EN+ spokeswoman Elena Rollins, said it was difficult to come to agreement with some environmentalists.

«I haven’t seen any hydro projects that Rivers Without Boundaries approve of. They are just generally against hydro power.»

RwB comment:

Dear Ms.Rollings, we are sorry to admit that we honestly dislike HPP-jumbo river-killers conceived in mid XX century so far owned by EN+. Good reasons for that have been outlined in our special address to investors and HKExchange. 

We always have hoped that ESE\EN+ planning for placement of new power stations  would be a transparent process and environmental and social considerations will be duly and openly incorporated into decision making. So far it has not happen.

Unfortunately new HPPs -Nizhneanagarsky and Tras-Sibirsky proposed by Your company and Chinese partners  are likely to follow the same environmentally-unfriendly pattern as your old dams. We will be very willing to engage into substantive discussion with EN+ on decreasing environmental impacts of existing and new hydro power plants and have expertise in this field. Unfortunately outr letters to Your company sent by us never yielded an answer from your side. Please consider this comment as another invitation to a dialogue on environmental policies and comparative advantages of different dam locations.

Eugene Simonov

International Coordinator 

Rivers without Boundaries

Photo: Shilka  valley to become a bottom of Trans-Sibirskaya reservoir


Trans-Sibirskaya hydropower plant -new deadly threat to Daurian rivers

 Alarming news came from eurosib.ru — official web-site of EuroSibEnergo(ESE)- energy offshoot of Deripaska’s Basel Holding.

«EuroSibEnergo, the largest independent power producer in Russia, and China Yangtze Power Co. («CYPC»), the largest Chinese listed hydroelectricity producer, signed a Framework Agreement that provides for joint investment of a list of power plant construction projects in Eastern Siberia. The Agreement was inked by Andrey Likhachev, the Chairman of EuroSibEnergo, and Yong Bai, Chief Financial Officer of CYPC during the Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum.

The top priority list includes the following projects:

1.       Lenskaya CHP. Installed capacity — up to 1,200 MW; location — Ust-Kut, Irkutsk region;

2.       Nizhne-Angarskaya HPP (Angara river). Installed capacity — 600 — 1,500 MW; location — Krasnoyarsk Region

3.       Trans-Sibirskaya HPP (Shilka River). Installed capacity — 400 — 900 MW; location — ca. 250 km from Mogocha, Trans-Baikal Territory. Trans-Sibirskaya HPP will provide an opportunity to synchronize the power systems of Siberia and the Russian Far East; it could also meet power demand of the Chinea polymetal deposit development project (implemented by En+ Group) and other mineral resources recovery projects in the Trans-Baikal Territory.

Both companies are currently performing the preliminary work of the feasibility study and financing of the joint investment projects and plan to start the actual work as soon as possible.  The companies plan is to involve the most prominent Russian and international environmental organizations to help develop a feasibility study of each project in order to ensure they meet the highest environmental standards.

Andrey Likhachev, Chairman of the EuroSibEnergo, commented: «The selected projects are in line with EuroSibEnergo’s strategy that focuses on renewable, carbon-free and environmentally-friendly energy. The proposed new plants will be the foundation for the development of the new industries and infrastructure in Eastern Siberia, driving the region’s economy growth. The pilot projects within our strategic partnership with China Yangtze Power will set new technological and environmental standards for the industry.»

RwB  comment:

EuroSibEnergo(ESE) has actually very poor record meeting environment and social standards. RwB thoroughly outlined that in a special address to investors and HKExchange in early 2011.
For instance, water level management of Lake Baikal by ESE’s Hydro  is adversely influencing this World Heritage Site. Moreover ESE is lobbying for permission to use more Baikal water for electricity generation which means greater impact. Water quality in existing 2 ESE reservoirs on Angara River is a subject of long-term concerns and virtually nothing is done by ESE to improve it. Construction of Boguchanskaya HPP on Angara done presently by Deripaska’s Rusal and Rushydro is simply illegal, since it has no valid EIA and numerous violations of environmental law and rights of local people.

As for two newly proposed hydropower stations they present high degree of thereat to important ecosystems:

The fifth station on Angara River will further add pressure both on Angara and increase demand to regulate Lake Baikal in the interest of hydropower. Angara will fully cease to exist as river ecosystem replaced by uninterrupted chain of reservoirs.

Shilka-location map

Shilka is a primary source of Amur River flowing from Mongolia into Russia. An assessment of a similar hydropower project in the same stretch of Shilka River done by Chita research institute of Academy of Science in 1990 came to conclusion that it is environmentally and socially unacceptable due  to high negative impact on fish, water quality,  regional biodiversity and living environment of local people. This hydro presently is not in the HPP construction plan approved by the State recently and is not a part of any regional development strategy.

Preliminary assessment done by Amur WWF and RwB shows that new dam would likely have negative impacts on IUCN-listed Kaluga sturgeon, many salmonid fish, as well as of fisheries tourism in upstream Mongolia, likely, dependent on Shilka and Upper Amur as source of fish stock replenishment.

450 kilometer long reservoir will occupy roughly a half of Shilka River proper. It will block important migration corridor between Amur river and northern Dauria, exterminate floodplain communities unique for Dauria, drown many important historic sites.

Major negative aspect of this dam — its location in the lower reaches of Shilka, which would block\isolate 200000 square kilometres or 10% of Amur River basin. When compared with other existing and proposed hydropower projects in Amur Basin  Shilka HPP always shows greater potential environmental and social impact both in absolute figures and per unit production that the majority of other dams. Only Sino Russian hydropower plants proposed on the main stem of Amur river proper looks more harmful than this dam.

 Therefore «new technological and environmental standards set for the industry» by ESE and Yangtze Power may happen to be very low, even lower than those exposed by existing obsolete HPP in Amur River Basin.


Mongolia — perfect nuclear dumpsite? Two news.

 Mongolian environmentalists  ask increasing number questions regarding handling of nuclear issues, especially in connection with Dornod-Uranium agreement with Russia. Looks like they have good reason for it —  lately Mongolian nuclear deals and associated scandals happen every month if not more frequently. Two latest stories follow:

EC funds for safety issues in uranium mining

The Development Aid and Cooperation Office of the European Commission has given  Mongolia 2.5 million euro to implement a 3-year project together with Kazakhstan, Kirgizstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. The project will cover the following issues related to uranium exploitation in Central Asia:

-Formulation of parameters of a common legislation

-Establishing a structure to monitor use of radioactive substances and chemical pollution of water used in production

-Improvement of technology to determine emission of alpha, beta, gamma and radon

-Training of specialists for radioactive protection, recovery of environment, and to prepare monitoring plans and methods

-Establishment of a database on exploited uranium in the region.


Mongolia To Become Nuclear Waste Site

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

In recent months, the press in Japan and the US has reported that Mongolia is negotiating with these countries to serve as a regional depository for spent nuclear fuel. The proposed plan would permit geographically constrained countries in the region, such as Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, to dispose of their spent fuel in the spacious Central Asian state.When the story first broke in March, the Mongolian Foreign Ministry was quick to dismiss the notion that Mongolia would host Asia’s nuclear waste. The statement went on to declare that Mongolia’s constitution prohibits the «import of dangerous waste to Mongolian territory». The truth of these reports is still unknown. However, the suggestion of burying spent nuclear fuel in Mongolia has risen again. The Mainichi Daily News, the English site of Japan’s Mainichi Newspapers recently reported that the Draft accord describes Mongolia as the home for spent nuclear fuel.

A draft Japanese-US-Mongolian agreement over the creation of a nuclear fuel production and spent fuel disposal cycle clearly refers to Mongolia as the destination of such fuel, according to its text, which was obtained by Kyodo News on July 18th.

The draft statement of intent between the three countries on the so-called «comprehensive fuel services» would create the world’s first framework in which Mongolia exports uranium fuel to other countries and disposes of the fuel spent there on its own soil. The draft agreement mentions the role of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog, to potentially provide technical support to Mongolia in developing used fuel storage facilities.
The concept appears difficult to implement in light of the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, where the March tsunami caused a series of equipment failures, nuclear meltdowns and releases of radioactive materials in the biggest nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. However, hopes for such an initiative linger among those involved, including some private-sector firms.
Establishing a system to permanently dispose of spent nuclear fuel presents a significant challenge to countries intent on adopting atomic power. Even Japan and the United States, who have highly developed nuclear power structures, have yet to establish such a system.
At the same time, Japanese and US companies are eager to capitalise on the initiative as a possible deal-making solution as they market nuclear power infrastructure to countries interested in adopting nuclear power, critics say.
The draft agreement notes the importance of developing «multilateral approaches» to the nuclear fuel cycle and possibly creating mechanisms for assuring nuclear fuel supply to such countries.
The document also says the three countries should meet regularly to develop «commercial arrangements to provide comprehensive fuel services at the front and back-end of the fuel cycle in a safe, secure, responsible and peaceful manner.»
In Japan, the initiative was led by the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry. The ministry aimed to have the agreement, drafted by the United States, signed last February, but the move was postponed after the Foreign Ministry lodged an objection, Japanese sources said.
An internal document at the industry ministry’s Agency for Natural Resources and Energy, which was created in February and later obtained by Kyodo, noted that the Japanese ministry and Toshiba Corp. were engaging in behind-the-scenes talks with the US Department of Energy and the Mongolian government over the initiative.
The document went on to say Mongolia had already begun contacting the United Arab Emirates over the possible supply of Mongolian uranium fuel and acceptance of the fuel after its use.

Mongolians overseas have created a Facebook group united against burying spent nuclear waste in Mongolia, which collects information about Mongolia and sends it to Green Party members worldwide. Alongside gathering information, they have addressed inquiries to Mongolian authorities, however have received no answer as yet. Pursuant to the latest Japanese report, the Mongolian Green Coalition has appealed to President Ts.Elbegdorj. The following is an interview with L.Selenge, the head of the Green party.

-Where did you receive the information about the plan to dispose of spent nuclear waste in Mongolia?
-From the Japanese Mainichi newspaper which has recently verified the truth of the rumour which started last March. Mongolia’s destiny was probably decided during Naadam by corrupt Mongolian authorities. If the spent nuclear waste is buried on Mongolian soil, our country will soon become the world’s dumping ground. Green Party members call it a ‘dead point’- this is only a short term solution.|

-This information is based on newspaper reports but have you obtained information from any other sources?
-We formally inquired about the credibility of their statement from the Mainichi newspaper authorities. They gave an official response confirming their honesty and will take full responsibility for the report, which we are inclined to accept because Mainichi is one of the most prestigious newspapers in Japan. Moreover, we are communicating with international Green Parties and according to this information, we suspect that the Mongolian authorities have given up their native land for a price. The government of Mongolia has denied the Mainichi account but if it is in fact fictitious, the Mongolian government has full rights to sue Mainichi for libel to rescue their reputation. Yet they have made no such move and have not even attempted to answer the letter demanding an explanation.

-Whom on the Mongolian side do you suspect of planning to sign the draft?
-The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is in charge of this issue. The ambassador A.Undraa, who is responsible for nuclear concerns, has lived in the USA for many years and owns a green card. We suspect that a person who has resided in the States for a long time is culpable.
-Have you asked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for clarification? Do you have any further information?
-The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has not responded. The draft is highly confidential and thus impossible to research further.
-When it started to explore this matter the Green Coalition submitted an inquiry to the State Great Khural. Was an answer ever given?
-An answer was never given. To clear themselves the Mongolian government must provide an answer officially and prove the falsity of the newspaper. But their silence continues. Consequently, we demanded that the President of Mongolia give an official response to the public on behalf of the government.

Source http://ubpost.mongolnews.mn

Mongolia National Water Programme — Action Plan

Thanks to  generosity and good cooperation spirit of the Mongolian Water Authority we finally obtained English text of the Action plan.
We were especially impressed with the opening actions  under Section 3:

3. The following measures shall be taken towards creating conditions for the accumulation of water resources, provision of potable water, which should meet the requirements for health standards by improving water supply for industry and agriculture in order to provide sustainable environmental development:

3.1. Develop designs for the construction and operation of a reservoir and a hydropower station at the Hovd river and its tributaries and at Northern Arctic Ocean Basin downstream of glaciers in order to create a water resource with 70,000-80,000 million cubic meter impoundment in the high mountain region

3.2. Perform studies on the possibility for regulating flow and constructing reservoirs at the Orhon, Selenge, Herlen, Tuul, Hovd, Bulgan, Halh, Onon, Eg, Harhiraa, Turgen, Shished, Eroo, Haraa, Tamir, and Bogd Rivers, and transporting water for various uses; perform designs at feasible locations and implement construction work

Now as You are intrigued