Illustration photo: Thomas Nilsen

Russia offers to help safeguard Norwegian radioactive waste

After 25 years of economic aid from Norway to secure nuclear- and radioactive waste on the Kola Peninsula, the situation could be mirrored back.
November 08, 2018

Last week, newspaper Aftenposten (pay-wall) reported that Norway’s repository for solid radioactive waste in Himdalen, an hour drive from Oslo, violates several norms stipulated in its operation license.

The repository, supposed to be safe for hundreds of years, receives radioactive waste from Norway’s two research reactors, from x-ray machines, and other sources used in medicine and industry. The repository opened in 1998.

Now, spokesperson in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Maria Zakharova, says Russia is ready to assist Oslo in dealing with the inappropriate storage of radioactive waste, news agency TASS reports on Thursday.

“We have seen these reports, two major rules violations have been recorded,” Zakharova says.

The Foreign Ministry’s video from the weekly press briefing is posted in end of this article (see 01.20.40). Zakharova was well prepared to answer the question from the TASS journalist. 

“Given our long experience of cooperation in the field of radiation security, Russia is ready to provide assistance to our Norwegian colleagues in resolving issues with the radioactive waste storage system.”

Since 1995, the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has granted about 2 billion kroner (€190 million) to a long range of nuclear safety projects in Russia, mainly at the Kola Peninsula where Cold War nuclear powered submarines have been decommissioned.

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Also, Norway is still cooperating with Russia on securing the Andreeva Bay storage site where both radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel are stored. The site is located some 60 kilometers from the border to Norway. 

Funding is granted to both safety projects at both Kola and Leningrad nuclear power plants. At Atomflot, Russia’s base for civilian nuclear powered icebreakers, Norwegian funding has been spent on physical protection of vessels and for a cleaning facility for liquid radioactive waste. The last was never commissioned. 

Norway’s Foreign Ministry in Oslo has not responded to question from the Barents Observer on whether to accept the offer from Moscow or not.

Three of the reactor compartments from Cold War submarines in Saida Bay have been secured with funding from Norway. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

Andrey Zolotkov, Director of the non-profit organization Centre for Support of Environmental Projects of Bellona (ANO), welcomes the idea.

On Skype from Murmansk he says to the Barents Observer: “This is a very interesting proposal.”

Andrey Zolotkov in Skype discussion. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

However, he suggests the official proposal to assist should come from Rosatom, the state nuclear corporation, and not from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“I suppose RosRAO, or its northwestern branch, working with radioactive waste management could open a branch in Norway and use technology already developed in Russia to assist the situation at Himdalen [storage site],” Andrei Zolotkov says.

“After all, we have cooperated on nuclear and radiation safety here in the Murmansk region. Now Norway needs help. It is not a bad idea to work together.”

 

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