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Norway paid to help Russian nuclear submarine waste clean-up – but now – new submarines!

Norway celebrates 25-years paying for nuclear-dump cleanup. Russia showcases new reactor weapons

Rosatom officials and Norwegian project partners are Wednesday marking that it is 25 years since the first money check was sent from Oslo to help improve infrastructure at the ill-fated Andreeva Bay dump site for spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste accumulated from the operation of Cold War submarines.  The Barents Observer ,By Thomas Nilsen September 29, 2021

Hindered from on-site meetings due to the pandemic, today’s 25-years anniversary meeting in Andreeva Bay is long overdue. However, the meeting comes in pole position as the two countries are trying to improve bilateral relations in times of more complex geopolitics and higher tensions between NATO and Russia up north.

……. ensuring nuclear safety is another topic for good bilateral cooperation.

For the Soviet nuclear navy, the Coastal Technical Base in Andreeva Bay became the main storage site for both spent fuel assemblies from submarine reactors, as well as a site to store containers with solid radioactive waste. Focus was not on safety and after years of exposure to Arctic climate, the site became contaminated and the infrastructure started to fall apart. With Russia being broke after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the call for international action was precarious. Norwegian money, and will to solve the problem, was most welcomed……………

Success story 

More than 2 billion kroner (nearly €200 million) of Norwegian taxpayers money are spent on helping Russia secure its nuclear legacy since the mid-1990ties. The ground-breaking nuclear safety work initiated on the Kola Peninsula, only some 60 km from the border to Norway, has since been followed by many other countries and international financial grant programs.

For projects in Andreeva Bay, Norway has paid more than €30 million on things like fixing electricity, water pipelines, roads, fences, constructing a new sanitary building and improving the old pier in port with a new lifting crane. About half of the 21,000 spent uranium fuel elements originally stored in three rundown concrete tanks is so far lifted out, repacked and shipped out of Andreeva Bay. First to Atomflot in Murmansk, then by train further to Russia’s reprocessing plant at Mayak in the South Urals. Some 10,000 cubic meters of solid radioactive waste that previously was stored outdoor and exposed to snow and frost is now under roof in a new building erected at the site. Soon, also that will be transported away.

Present at the celebrations in Andreeva Bay is also representatives from the environmental NGO Bellona. It was this organization, with offices both in Murmansk and Oslo, that before the official country-to-country cooperation started, was first to uncover security breaches and the urgency to act before the entire storage site turned out to be a Chernobyl in slow-motion.

“Time has come” 

Bellona’s Aleksandr Nikitin says to the Barents Observer that the time has come for Russia to solve its own nuclear challenges, not the international community. “But first we have to complete already started international projects, like the nuclear legacy,” Nikitin says and points to the ongoing work in Andreeva Bay………….

Meanwhile, and unlike the 1990ties, Russia is now investing huge money in building new nuclear-powered submarines and other military nuclear installations. A key question is whether Moscow now is arming the country again into a nuclear age that later could cause similar radiological waste challenges as the legacy from the last Cold War created.

…….. It is a task for Russia and Rosatom. We cannot hire anymore for a rich uncle from the west to come and help again. It was a time when it was necessary, not anymore.”

Meanwhile, Aleksandr Nikitin is glad to see the solution-oriented results of the work in Andreeva Bay.

“Bellona started it, and we have to finish it,” he says………………………………….

A Norwegian intelligence official has previously expressed fears for more accidents with the reactor-powered weapons systems now under testing and development in Norway’s neighboring areas up north.

For Norway, a challenge is to balance the aid-support to nuclear safety with making sure no funding ends up in Russia’s new crazy nuclear weapons programs…………..

The “Serebryanka” dilemma  

A review made by the Barents Observer of the publicly available documents on financial aid from Norway and Sweden to equip modern communication and positioning systems on board “Serebryanka” shows that about 9 million kroner (€900,000) were spent on the project in 2013 and 2014. That was shortly before the Burevestnik testing program started. 

The Swedish Radiation Safety Authority, in charge of the project, says in its annual overview of Non-Proliferation cooperation for 2013 that the “Serebryanka” was the largest project initiated in the Murmansk region.

Stockholm spent 4,1 million Swedish kroner (SEK) on equipment for “Serebryanka” in 2013 and an additional 217,000 SEK in 2014.

Describing the project
, the Radiation Safety Authority writes: “This project is co-financed with Norway and the purpose is to equip the vessel “Serebryanka” with a physical protection system, as well as communications and positioning systems, in order to increase security when transporting nuclear materials and radioactive substances.”

The Norwegian share of the project was 3 million Norwegian kroner, paid as part of the Nuclear Action Plan financed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


Asked about the potential conflicting interests, State Secretary Audun Halvorsen in Norway’s Foreign Ministry told the Barents Observer upfront of the annual meeting in the Norwegian-Russian Commission on Nuclear Safety this spring that “…. our bilateral cooperation on nuclear safety projects are related to civilian activities only, and questions regarding military activities are therefore considered outside of the scope of the commission by the Russian side.”

September 30, 2021 - Posted by | EUROPE, politics, politics international, Russia, wastes, weapons and war

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