Follow-up of the AMEC declaration

AMEC – the Arctic Military Environmental Co-operation – was initiated in March 1995 to discuss Arctic environmental issues that are related to military capabilities and activities. On September 26, 1996, in Bergen, Norway, US Secretary of Defence William J. Perry, Norwegian Minister of Defence Jørgen Kosmo, and Russian Minister of Defence Igor Rodionov launched the co-operation.

Currently, there are four radioactive waste management projects under the AMEC; dealing with spent nuclear fuel interim storage containers, liquid radioactive waste treatment, solid radioactive volume waste reduction and solid radioactive waste storage technologies. AMEC also includes two non-radioactive waste management projects. The projects are discussed by top level environmental officials from the three countries’ ministries of defence.

At present, the most promoted project was approved on May 16 this year, dealing with development of a spent fuel interim storage container. A prototype container was developed by St. Petersburg design bureau (KBSM), subject to the Ministry of Military Industry. This container was initially to be used for RBMK type fuel, and to be installed at Leningrad Nuclear Power Plant. The KBSM containers are not limited to RBMK type fuel, but can be utilised for storage of maritime fuel from nuclear-powered submarines and nuclear-powered ice-breakers after minor modifications. The container is 5 meters high and 2,5 meters in width, with a capasity of 100 spent fuel assemblies. The containers can be used both for medium term storage of fuel (up to 50 years) and for transport operations. According to officials at Murmansk Shipping Company, the containers do not require any special shield and can be stored in open sites on a specially built concrete pad.

According to current plans, two containers of this type are to be built and tested, and in case of success, serial production is to be launched. The project is to be completed in 3 years time, while the testing is to begin in 2,5 years. The "Atomflot" ice- breaker base in Murmansk will be one of the test sites.

The necessity for a special land-based storage facility for interim storage of both damaged and undamaged spent fuel, has by now been admitted by both the Navy and the leadership of the nuclear-powered ice-breakers fleet. The onshore and floating storage facilities of the Northern Fleet are filled to capasity, increasing the likelihood of accidents, while the nuclear-powered ice-breakers fleet has to store spent fuel onboard service vessels. Transportation of spent fuel for reprocessing at Mayak in Siberia, is proceeding in slow motion due to technical and economical reasons; while the Mayak plant itself is in a very difficult situation, having been forced by the Russian Nuclear Inspection to suspend the reprocessing activities.

Igor Kudrik

igor@bellona.no