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Rosatom says nuclear cleanup in Arctic done – Far from the case, says Bellona.

The nuclear cleanup in the Arctic is not done, there is still radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel that needs securing.

Those items remaining to be cleaned up and secured include at least 11,000 spent nuclear fuel assemblies at Andreyeva Bay, a former Soviet submarine base. They also include two sunken nuclear submarines, over a dozen nuclear reactors and barrels of radioactive waste scuttled by the Soviet Navy in the Kara and Barents Seas. Issues of securing spent fuel and radioactive waste stored on nuclear icebreaker service ships likewise remain unresolved.  

Russia’s state nuclear corporation Rosatom said last week that more than two decades worth of efforts to rid the Arctic of radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel from decommissioned submarines will now come to an end. Bellona fears Rosatom is leaving undone a raft of crucial projects initiated with international support.

June 7, 2023 by Bellona

Russia’s state nuclear corporation Rosatom said last week that more than two decades worth of efforts to rid the Arctic of radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel from decommissioned submarines will now come to an end. Bellona fears Rosatom is leaving undone a raft of crucial projects initiated with international support. 

” [This work]began back in the early 2000s with the analysis of large deposits of spent nuclear fuel from nuclear submarine reactors,” said Rosatom CEO Aleksei Likhachev in remarks reported by official Russian newswire Tass “In total, thousands of tons of radioactive materials have been handled, and today we are at the finish line of this work, returning these territories to public use under strict administrative, public, and international control.” 

Since the 1990s, the Bellona Foundation has been involved in discovering and documenting nuclear hazards and radiation threats in Arctic Russia and based on that experience, the organization asserts that Likhachev’s announcement is untrue — Russia is nowhere near the “finish line” in these efforts

Furthermore, Likhachev’s remarks contradict earlier statements from Rosatom that many of these cleanup operations would be ongoing until late in this decade. 

“Russian authorities are backtracking on earlier statements from May last year, and confirming Bellona’s fears that these projects will not be continued or completed, says Frederic Hauge, president of the Bellona Foundation. 

“The nuclear cleanup in the Arctic is not done, there is still radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel that needs securing – both in the former marine base at Andreeva Bay and at the bottom of the Arctic seas”, says underlines Hauge. 

Since the early 2000s, cleanup projects to rid the Arctic of the nuclear legacy of the Soviet Northern fleet have been ongoing in North-West Russia. These efforts were orchestrated through international cooperation between Russia and other countries and aided by large funding pledges from international donors.  

These multinational efforts continued until February of 2022, when Moscow invaded Ukraine. Since then, international assistance to Moscow has been put on ice. But even then, key figures at Rosatom pledged that cleanup work would continue, nonetheless.  

But Likhachev’s statement seems to put an end to that and declares victory well before the battle is finished  

Those items remaining to be cleaned up and secured include at least 11,000 spent nuclear fuel assemblies at Andreyeva Bay, a former Soviet submarine base. They also include two sunken nuclear submarines, over a dozen nuclear reactors and barrels of radioactive waste scuttled by the Soviet Navy in the Kara and Barents Seas. Issues of securing spent fuel and radioactive waste stored on nuclear icebreaker service ships likewise remain unresolved. 

In 2022, after Moscow launched its invasion of Ukraine, Russian authorities sought to assure their international counterparts that each of these projects would nonetheless continue, despite the withdrawal of international assistance.   

Bellona had since that time been concerned that Russia, in its state of war, would fail to prioritize these critical projects, and in November the organization warned that the efforts to lift sunken Soviet submarines would at best be indefinitely postponed  …………………………………

The issue of the sunken objects left by the Soviet Union will not be solved by itself. Ninety percent of that radiation from the sunken objects in the Kara and Barents seas is emitted by six objects that Rosatom has deemed urgent and targeted for lifting: two nuclear submarines; the reactor compartments from three nuclear submarines; and the reactor from the legendary icebreaker Lenin. …………….

“Why do they choose to say that the cleanup is done now – when that clearly is not the case? Rosatom has time and again underlined the importance of finishing the cleanup projects and lifting the sunken objects from the bottom of the sea, says Hauge. 

 “If we were to speculate, it might be that they are trying to force a renewed dialogue on financing of these projects, despite the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Perhaps they are fishing for reactions from Norwegian authorities and other western governments – perhaps particularly when it comes to the sunken objects,” continues Hauge 

“They know that the more delayed a decision to raise these subs is, the higher the risk of a lifting operation failing. Thus, such a statement can put pressure on former cooperation partners to reevaluate their decision to discontinue cooperation with Russia and financial support on these topics because of the invasion of Ukraine. If that is the correct interpretation, then it is a form of blackmail – nuclear blackmail,” Hauge concludes.



June 9, 2023 Posted by | ARCTIC, oceans, Russia, wastes | 1 Comment

Greenland refuses to allow exploitation for uranium

Energy Transition Minerals, formerly Greenland Minerals A/S, has been
informed by Naalakkersuisut that their application for an exploitation
permit in Kuannersuisut has been refused. The ministry announced this in a
short press release on Friday afternoon. Energy Transition Minerals has
applied for permission for exploitation at Kuannersuit in Narsaq,
targeting, among other things, rare earths, zinc and uranium.

Sermitsiaq 2nd June 2023

June 5, 2023 Posted by | ARCTIC, politics, Uranium | Leave a comment

Rock ‘flour’ from Greenland can capture significant CO2, study shows

Powder produced by ice sheets could be used to help tackle climate crisis when spread on farm fields

Damian Carrington Environment editor @dpcarrington, Tue 30 May 2023

Rock “flour” produced by the grinding under Greenland’s glaciers can trap climate-heating carbon dioxide when spread on farm fields, research has shown for the first time.

Natural chemical reactions break down the rock powder and lead to CO2 from the air being fixed in new carbonate minerals. Scientists believe measures to speed up the process, called enhanced rock weathering (ERW), have global potential and could remove billions of tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere, helping to prevent extreme global heating…………..

Greenland’s giant ice sheet produces 1bn tonnes a year of rock flour, which flows as mud from under the glaciers. This means the potential supply of rock flour is essentially unlimited, the researchers said, and removing some would have very little effect on the local environment.

The weathering process is relatively slow, taking decades to complete, but the researchers said ERW could make a meaningful difference in meeting the key target of net zero emissions by 2050. Phasing out the burning of fossil fuels remains the most critical climate action, but most scientists agree that ways of removing CO2 from the atmosphere will also be needed to avoid the worst effects of the climate crisis.

“If you want something to have a global impact, it has to be very simple,” said Prof Minik Rosing at the University of Copenhagen, who was part of the research team. “You can’t have very sophisticated things with all kinds of hi-tech components. So the simpler the better, and nothing is simpler than mud.”

He added: “Above all this is a scalable solution. Rock flour has been piling up in Greenland for the past 8,000 years or so. The whole Earth’s agricultural areas could be covered with this, if you wished.”……………………………………………………………….more

June 1, 2023 Posted by | ARCTIC, climate change | Leave a comment

Russia to set up a small nuclear reactor in the Arctic Republic of Sakha

Rosatom and the Corporation for the Development of the Far East and the
Arctic have signed a cooperation agreement relating to the construction of
a Russian small nuclear reactor power plant in the Republic of Sakha (also
known as Yakutia).

World Nuclear News 18th April 2023

April 21, 2023 Posted by | ARCTIC, Small Modular Nuclear Reactors | Leave a comment

Sea level rise as Greenland ice thaws faster than expected

Sea levels might rise much faster than thought, data from Greenland
suggest. Greenland’s largest ice sheet is thawing at a much higher rate
than expected, a new study has revealed, suggesting it will add six times
more water to the rising sea levels than previously thought. And the trend
may not be limited to Greenland, scientists worry. 10th Nov 2022

November 11, 2022 Posted by | ARCTIC, climate change | Leave a comment

This Abandoned Nuclear City Is Trapped Under Ice, What Happens If It Thaws? 24 Oct 22, In an effort to stop the spread of Soviet influence during the height of the Cold War, the United States and Denmark signed the 1951 Defense of Greenland Act. Soon after, the U.S. Army constructed a state-of-the-art nuclear-powered Arctic research center, with multiple military bases built out on the ice sheet, one of them was Camp Century.

Watch the video on why Project Iceworm was aborted before it began, and the state of Camp Century today. In the midst of a warming climate, who is responsible for the abandoned base, and how do we protect the environment from the physical, biological, and radiological wastes at the site?

For more on this unfolding threat, read about Denmark’s Camp Century Climate Monitoring Programme and scientists’ warning of melting Artic releasing banned toxins.

October 24, 2022 Posted by | ARCTIC, environment | Leave a comment

Doomsday Greenland glacier on the brink as scientist sounds alarm.

 Scientists have issued a dire warning as the Greenland ice sheet, one of
the largest in the world, is far more vulnerable than previously thought.

The enormous body of ice has been critical to global sea level rise and
climate change, and new research suggests that it could be in greater
danger than previously believed.

The climate crisis, triggered by human
activity like burning fossil fuels, has resulted in average global
temperatures rising to dangerous levels, and is beginning to cause, or
aggravate major natural disasters around the world. Scientists now warn
that the rising air temperatures has amplified the effects of melting
caused by the ocean warming, which has led to greater loss of ice from the
Greenland ice sheet.

 Express 16th Oct 2022

October 18, 2022 Posted by | ARCTIC, climate change | Leave a comment

Very low Arctic sea ice

 Arctic sea ice has reached its maximum extent for the year, peaking at
14.88m square kilometres (km2) on 25 February. It is the 10th smallest
winter peak in the 44-year satellite record. The provisional data from the
National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC) shows that this year’s Arctic
maximum extent was recorded on 25 February – marking the third earliest
maximum in the satellite record. While the past six months have been fairly
uneventful in the Arctic in general, the Earth’s other pole has seen a
record-breaking melt season.

For the first time since the satellite record
began, the Antarctic extent fell below 2m km2 this year. Unusually, the
Arctic winter peak and the Antarctic summer minimum occurred on exactly the
same day.

 Carbon Brief 22nd March 2022

March 24, 2022 Posted by | ARCTIC, climate change, water | Leave a comment

Exceptional warmth at North Pole, 50 degrees above normal

 Record ‘bomb cyclone’ bringing exceptional warmth to North Pole. Arctic temperatures could approach the melting point as they surge nearly 50 degrees above normal. Temperature differences from normal predicted over the Arctic early Wednesday from the American (GFS) model. The difference is
around 50 degrees (28 Celsius) at the North Pole. (

A record-breaking “bomb cyclone” that began its development over the U.S. East Coast on Friday is bringing an exceptional insurgence of mild air to the Arctic. Temperatures around 50 degrees (28 Celsius) above normal could visit the North Pole on Wednesday, climbing to near the freezing mark.

It’s a highly unusual and extreme bout of circumstances, particularly considering the North Pole is still in a nearly six-month period of darkness known as “polar night.” The sun doesn’t fully rise above the horizon between fall and spring equinoxes, contributing to the bone-chilling temperatures customary to the inhospitable region.

 Washington Post 15th March 2022

March 21, 2022 Posted by | ARCTIC, climate change | Leave a comment

Russia’s nuclear powered container ship is sailing into thick ice.

Russia’s nuclear powered container ship is sailing into thick ice, Barents Observer  By

Atle Staalesen, 26 Jan 22,

The “Sevmorput” joins a convoy of vessels that will break its way across the Northern Sea Route. The 260 meter long nuclear-powered vessel early this week sailed thought the Bering Strait and into the Chukchi Sea. A thick layer of sea-ice covers the remote waters that mark the eastern end of the Northern Sea Route.

It is a rough voyage, even for a ship that is designed for sailing in up to a meter thick ice. After this winter’s early freeze, there is now a solid layer of fast ice along Russia’s Arctic coasts, and the waters of the East Siberian, Laptev and Kara Seas have up to 2 meter thick sea-ice……….

The Sevmorput is escorted by nuclear-powered icebreaker Yamal. In the convoy is also heavy loads carrier Audax, as well as conventional icebreaker Kapitan Dranitsyn.

Both the Sevmorput and Audax have Murmansk as their destination.

Also nuclear-powered icebreaker Arktika might ultimately join the convoy. The new Russian icebreaker in late January completed its escort of cargo ship Lev Yashin, and will soon turn back to the Chukchi Sea.

Consequently, there might in only few days be three nuclear-powered vessels at the same time in the east Arctic waters……………..

January 27, 2022 Posted by | ARCTIC, Russia, technology | 1 Comment

Fieldwork in the High Arctic found cataclysmic impact of climate change happening 70 years ahead of what the scientific models expected.

 During the month of December 2021 two warnings of impending sea level rise were issued by highly respected groups of climate scientists. These are professional scientists who do not deal in hyperbole. Rather, they are archetypical conservative serious-minded scientists who follow the facts.

The most recent warning on December 30th is of deteriorating conditions at the Arctic and Greenland.

The second warning is the threatening collapse in Antarctica of one of the largest glaciers in the world.

As these event unfortunately coincide so close together, one at the top of the world, the other at the bottom, should coastal cities plan to build sea walls? An article by M. Farquharson, et al in Geophysical Research Letters d/d June10, 2019 stated: “Observed maximum thaw depths at our sites are already exceeding those projected to occur by 2090.” In other words, fieldwork in
the High Arctic found cataclysmic impact of climate change happening 70 years ahead of what the scientific models expected.

 Counterpunch 7th Jan 2022

January 13, 2022 Posted by | ANTARCTICA, ARCTIC, climate change | Leave a comment

Climate change destroying homes across the Arctic

Cracked homes, buckled roads and ruptured pipelines are likely to become common in and near the Arctic as warming temperatures cause frozen ground to thaw, new findings say. Five million people live on Arctic permafrost including in Russia, North America and Scandinavia.

Climate change is causing the Arctic to warm two-to-four times faster than the rest of the planet.

 BBC 11th Jan 2022

January 13, 2022 Posted by | ARCTIC, climate change | Leave a comment

A second great nuclear ice breaker for Russia to keep the Northern Sea Route open

Second giant nuclear icebreaker handed over to Rosatomflot, The “Sibir”
will add to the rapidly growing fleet of powerful icebreakers tasked to
keep the Northern Sea Route open for year-round shipping. The acceptance
certificate was signed at a ceremony onboard the icebreaker at the Baltic
Shipyard in St. Petersburg on December 24, Rosatomflot informs.

 Barents Observer 25th Dec 2021

December 27, 2021 Posted by | ARCTIC, technology | Leave a comment

Climate change has crashed Earth’s ”air – conditioners” – the North and South poles.

Though the continent stays frozen for much of the year, rising temperatures in the Pacific have changed how air circulates around the South Pole, which in turn affects ocean currents. Warm, deep ocean water is welling up towards coastlines, lapping at the ice sheet’s weak frozen underbelly, weakening it from below.

“This is triggering the beginnings of a massive collapse,” Scampos wrote in an email from Antarctica’s McMurdo Station, where he is preparing for a field trip to Thwaites Glacier’s failing ice shelf………………………………….

Climate change has crashed Earth’s ‘air-conditioners’, risking rest of planet, The Age , By Sarah Kaplan, 16 Dec 21,   The ice shelf was cracking up. Surveys showed warm ocean water eroding its underbelly. Satellite imagery revealed long, parallel fissures in the frozen expanse, like scratches from some clawed monster. One fracture grew so big, so fast, scientists took to calling it “the dagger”.

“It was hugely surprising to see things changing that fast,” said Erin Pettit. The Oregon State University glaciologist had chosen this spot for her Antarctic field research precisely because of its stability. While other parts of the infamous Thwaites Glacier crumbled, this wedge of floating ice acted as a brace, slowing the melt. It was supposed to be boring, durable, safe.

Now climate change has turned the ice shelf into a threat – to Pettit’s field work and to the world.

Planet-warming pollution from burning fossil fuels and other human activities has already raised global temperatures more than 1.1 degrees Celsius. But the effects are particularly profound at the poles, where rising temperatures have seriously undermined regions once locked in ice.

In research presented this week at the world’s biggest earth science conference, Pettit showed that the Thwaites ice shelf could collapse within the next three to five years, unleashing a river of ice that could dramatically raise sea levels.

Up north, aerial surveys document how warmer conditions have allowed beavers to invade the Arctic tundra, flooding the landscape with their dams. Large commercial ships are increasingly infiltrating formerly frozen areas, disturbing wildlife and generating disastrous amounts of rubbish. In many Alaska Native communities, climate impacts compounded the hardships of the coronavirus pandemic, leading to food shortages among people who have lived off this land for thousands of years.

“The very character of these places is changing,” said Twila Moon, a glaciologist at the National Snow and Ice Data Centre and co-editor of the Arctic Report Card, an annual assessment of the state of the top of the world. “We are seeing conditions unlike those ever seen before.”

The rapid transformation of the Arctic and Antarctic creates ripple effects all over the planet. Sea levels will rise, weather patterns will shift and ecosystems will be altered. Unless humanity acts swiftly to curb emissions, scientists say, the same forces that have destabilised the poles will wreak havoc on the rest of the globe.

“The Arctic is a way to look into the future,” said Matthew Druckenmiller, a scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Centre and another co-editor of the Arctic Report Card. “Small changes in temperature can have huge effects in a region that is dominated by ice.”

This year’s edition of the report card, which was presented at the American Geophysical Union annual meeting on Tuesday, describes a landscape that is transforming so fast scientists struggle to keep up. Temperatures in the Arctic are rising twice as fast as the global average. The October to December 2020 period was the warmest on record, scientists say.

Separately on Tuesday, the World Meteorological Organisation confirmed a new temperature record for the Arctic: 38 degrees in the Siberian town of Verkhoyansk on June 20, 2020.

These warm conditions are catastrophic for the sea ice that usually spans across the North Pole. This past northern summer saw the second-lowest extent of thick, old sea ice since tracking began in 1985. Large mammals like polar bears go hungry without this crucial platform from which to hunt. Marine life ranging from tiny plankton to giant whales are at risk.

“It’s an ecosystem collapse situation,” said Kaare Sikuaq Erickson, Inupiaq, whose business Ikaagun Engagement facilitates cooperation between scientists and Alaska Native communities.

The consequences of this loss will be felt far beyond the Arctic. Sea ice has traditionally acted as Earth’s “air conditioner”; it reflects as much as two-thirds of the light that hits it, sending huge amounts of solar radiation back into space.

By contrast, dark expanses of water absorb heat, and it is difficult for these areas to refreeze. Less sea ice means more open ocean, more heat absorption and more climate change.

“We have a narrow window of time to avoid very costly, deadly and irreversible climate impacts,” National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration head Rick Spinrad said.

Record highs have also sounded the death knell for ice on land. Three historic melting episodes struck Greenland in July and August, causing the island’s massive ice sheet to lose about 34 trillion kilograms. On August 14, for the first time in recorded history, rain fell at the ice sheet summit…….

Though the Greenland ice sheet is more than a mile thick at its centre, rain can darken the surface, causing the ice to absorb more of the sun’s heat, Moon said. It changes the way snow behaves and slicks the top of the ice.

The consequences for people living in the Arctic can be dire. …………..

In Antarctica, University of Colorado-Boulder glaciologist Ted Scampos said “climate change is more about wind changes and ocean changes than warming – although that is happening in many parts of it as well.”

Though the continent stays frozen for much of the year, rising temperatures in the Pacific have changed how air circulates around the South Pole, which in turn affects ocean currents. Warm, deep ocean water is welling up towards coastlines, lapping at the ice sheet’s weak frozen underbelly, weakening it from below.

“This is triggering the beginnings of a massive collapse,” Scampos wrote in an email from Antarctica’s McMurdo Station, where he is preparing for a field trip to Thwaites Glacier’s failing ice shelf………………………………….

For many Arctic residents, climate change is a threat multiplier – worsening the dangers of whatever other crises come their way. Another essay in the report card documents the threats to Alaska Natives’ food security caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Quarantine restrictions prevented people from travelling to their traditional harvesting grounds. Economic upheaval and supply chain issues left many supermarkets with empty shelves.

But the essay, which was co-written by Inupiaq, Hadia, Ahtna and Supiaq researchers, along with experts from other Native communities, also highlights how Indigenous cultural practices helped communities stave off hunger. Existing food sharing networks redoubled their efforts. Harvesting traditions were adapted with public health in mind………………….

Though no place on Earth is changing as fast as the Arctic, rising temperatures have already brought similar chaos to more temperate climes as well. Unpredictable weather, unstable landscapes and collapsing ecosystems are becoming facts of life in communities around the globe.

None of this represents a “new normal,” Moon cautioned. It’s merely a pit stop on a path to an even stranger and more dangerous future.

Global greenhouse gas emissions are on track to keep rising. Governments and businesses have not taken the steps needed to avert catastrophic warming beyond 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels. There is every reason to believe that instability at the poles – and around the planet – will get worse.

But achieving the best case climate scenarios could cut the volume of ice lost from Greenland by 75 per cent, research suggests. International cooperation could prevent garbage from getting into the oceans and alleviate the effects of marine noise. Better surveillance and early warning systems can keep people safe when melting triggers landslides and floods.

“There’s such a big range and difference in what the future of the Arctic and the future anywhere on our globe can look like,” Moon said. “It all depends on human actions.”

The Washington Post

December 16, 2021 Posted by | ANTARCTICA, ARCTIC, climate change, oceans | Leave a comment

Norway faces up to fast increasing radiation risks. Drones monitor the nuclear ships, icebreakers, submarines that clutter the Arctic

Norway deploys radiation drones along its coast amidst nuclear emergency concerns
Five Coast Guard ships are soon to carry drones with sensors capable of detecting radioactivity in case of a maritime accident involving a potential release from a reactor-powered civilian or military vessel.  Barents Observer, By

Thomas Nilsen, December 03, 2021  A sharp increase in nuclear-powered vessels and ships with radioactive materials pose an increasing risk of accidents, a recent radiological- and nuclear risk assessment study for the Arctic Council concludes.

The risk is moderate and increasing in regards to nuclear-powered vessels and floating nuclear power plants, the report reads.

Now, authorities take action and deploy drones with radiation detectors on board Norway’s fleet of five Inner Coast Guard patrol vessels, from the North Sea region in the south to the Barents Sea in the north.

The danger is obvious. A worst-case scenario is a nuclear-powered vessel with a reactor leakage drifting at sea or running aground with a wind direction towards populated areas. In northern Norway, nine out of ten inhabitants live less than four kilometers from the sea.

A drone can help measure levels of radiation in close vicinity to the vessel in distress without exposing any of the emergency response teams to danger. The Coast Guard is already on 24/7 watch and plays an important role in emergency preparedness. 

Nuclear-powered icebreakers are more frequently sailing between the yard in St. Petersburg and their homeport in Murmansk, like this weekend when the newest icebreaker, the “Arktika“ sails around Scandinavia a few nautical miles off the coast.

The civilian nuclear-powered “Sevmorput is also regularly sailing between the Far East and St. Petersburg via the coasts of Siberia, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Poland, Estonia and Finland loaded with seafood and other products. The ship is 33 years old and is not allowed to make port calls to countries outside Russia. 

Every now and then, cargo vessels bring spent nuclear fuel or radioactive substances to the port of Murmansk.

Caused by increased military tensions, both NATO and Russian nuclear submarines are more frequently patrolling the strategically important North Atlantic. Allied submarines even make port calls to harbors in Norway, like this spring when “USS New Mexico” came to Tromsø in a high-profile visit. 

Detailed emergency response plans were made ahead of the submarine’s visit. For Norway, which has a comprehensive network of radiation detectors on land, the challenge however is what to do if something happens at sea. …………………….

Submarines and icebreakers 

Norway’s Inner Coast Guard includes the five vessels “Nornen”, “Tor”, “Heimdal”, “Njord” and “Farm”. The latter has Kirkenes as homeport and sails the waters closest to Russia’s Kola Peninsula where several tens of nuclear-powered submarines are based as well as being home to the increasing Arctic fleet of nuclear-powered icebreakers.

Two brand new icebreakers, powered by two reactors each, will be added to the fleet before the end of the year. The first is this weekend en route along the coast of Norway from St. Petersburg to Russia’s ice-covered waters around the Yamal Peninsula and the Kara Sea. ………..

Circumpolar cooperation 

Two years ago, the Norwegians and Americans sailed north to Svalbard together with Russian experts from the emergency response unit of Rosatom, working on remote-controlled systems for measuring radiation in case of accidents. 

Collaboration on nuclear accident preparedness is a priority for all circumpolar nations which agree that shared resources in sparsely populated areas benefit all………

“We never know where accidents might happen. But with the Coast Guard and their skills on operating drones, we are about to become world-class in preparedness,” Aas-Hansen elaborates. …….

“The new drone detectors for radiation are unique. What we learn from this is something we absolutely will share with other nations,” says Øyvind Aas-Hansen. He underlines that cross-sector collaboration with other agencies in Norway has brought the project forward………

Large nuclear exercise in 2022 

In May 2022, the partners will test the systems in a large international Arctic radiation exercise in the area around Bodø, northern Norway…….

Sharp increase in reactors 

The Barents Observer has published an overview (pdf) listing the increasing number of reactors in the Russian Arctic. The paper is part of Barents Observer’s analytical popular science studies on developments in the Euro-Arctic Region.

According to the list, there are 39 nuclear-powered vessels or installations in the Russian Arctic today with a total of 62 reactors. This includes 31 submarines, one surface warship, five icebreakers, two onshore and one floating nuclear power plant.

Looking more than a decade ahead, the number of ships, including submarines, and installations powered by reactors is estimated to increase to 74 with a total of 94 reactors, maybe as many as 114. Additional to new icebreakers and submarines already under construction, Russia is brushing dust of older Soviet ideas of utilizing nuclear power for different kinds of Arctic shelf industrial developments, like oil- and gas exploration, mining and research.

Although Russia’s existing “Akademik Lomonosov” and four planned floating nuclear power plants are to operate on the coast of the Chukotka Peninsula thousands of kilometers east of the European Arctic, maintenance, testing and change of spent nuclear fuel elements will take place at the Atomflot base in Murmansk, a city with about 300,000 inhabitants a few hours drive from the border to Norway. 

“By 2035, the Russian Arctic will be the most nuclearized waters on the planet,” the paper reads.

Also, existing icebreakers and submarines get lifetime prolongation. The average age of the Northern Fleet’s nuclear-powered submarines has never been older than today. Several of the submarines built in the 1980s will continue to sail the Barents Sea and under the Arctic ice cap until the late 2020s.

Serious accidents happen 

In recent years, two serious accidents in Russia’s northern waters have shaken the world.

On July 1, 2019, a fire broke out on the top-secret deep-diving submarine Losharik on 60 nautical miles from Russia’s border to Norway. The submarine was at the time working on the seabed in the Motovkiy Bay, just north of the important navy bases of the Northern Fleet. All 14 sailors on board were killed in the fire that likely started in the batteries.

Losharik was powered by one nuclear reactor and operated on a secret mission for GUGI, the Main Directorate for Deep-Sea Research, a top-secret unit directly subordinated the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces.

No leakages of radiation were reported at the time. 

Later that summer, on August 8, a serious radiation accident happened in the waters just outside Nenoksa naval missile test site on the southern shores of the White Sea.

Five Rosatom experts were killed and at least three others injured as a Burevestnik missile exploded. The Burevestnik is a nuclear-powered cruise missile currently under development by the Armed Forces. The small reactor is aimed at giving the missile “unlimited range”.

Shortly after the blast, radiation levels in the nearby city of Severodvinsk were measured to be several times higher than background for about half an hour, the Barents Observer reported. The data was based on the public automated monitoring system in Severodvinsk with eight sensors in town and at the Zvezdockha shipyard.

While normal background in the town with a population of 190,000 is around 0.11 µSv/h (microsievert per hour), the levels measured at the monitor on the Lomonosov Street near Lake Teatralnoye peaked at 2 µSv/h, nearly 20 times higher gamma radiation than normal. That, though, is still way within permissible levels for population exposure.

Fears more accidents 

In its annual threat assessment report the following year, Norway’s Intelligence Service warned that more accidents with Russia’s reactor-powered weapons systems could happen.

“The development will bring, additional to the military challenges, also challenges related to both environment and security. In 2019, about 25 Russians were killed during military activity near Norway,” the Intelligence Service Director Morten Haga Lunde said and added:

“I consider the risk for more such unintended incidents in our neighborhoods to be big in the years to come.”


December 6, 2021 Posted by | ARCTIC, EUROPE, safety | Leave a comment