Norway’s contribution to nuclear safety in Russia

Publish date: June 17, 1997

Written by: Igor Kudrik

Norway takes part in 9 different projects aimed at improving the nuclear safety in Northwest Russia. Most of the projects are in a stage of consideration and evaluation, although some already show progression. All the projects are based on proposals drawn from the Russian counterparts.

The Norwegian official involvement in nuclear safety issues in Northwest Russia might be referred back to 1994, when the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs submitted a report to the Norwegian Parliament. The report covered nuclear matters in the Northwest Russia, its threats and possible remediations.

Later, two projects came up where Norwegian officials took an active part: The Lepse- project, initiated by the Bellona Foundation, and a Russian-American-Norwegian co-operative project aimed at increasing the processing capacity for liquid waste at RTP "Atomflot" in Murmansk.

In the course of 1995, Norwegian company Kvaerner Maritime in co-operation with Russian company NPO Energia conducted a common study which resulted in seven projects, all of which were agreed upon at the meeting between Russian and Norwegian counterparts in February 1996.

These are the seven projects:

  1. Design, construction, and commissioning of a container vessel for spent nuclear fuel.
  2. Construction and commissioning of special railway wagons (TK-VG-18 type, which are currently in use in Russia for shipment of maritime nuclear fuel down to Mayak for reprocessing).
  3. Design, construction, and commissioning of a temporary storage facility for liquid radioactive waste at the Zvezdochka yard in Severodvinsk.
  4. Establishing a mobile facility for concentrating liquid radioactive waste.
  5. Design, construction, and commissioning of a temporary storage facility for solid radioactive waste (Kola Peninsula, apparently at Nerpa Repair yard).
  6. Measures to enable emptying and further non-use of an unsafe temporary storage facility for spent nuclear fuel in Andreeva Bay (Zapadnaya Litsa, Kola Peninsula).
  7. Assistance in the completion (or designing and constructing one new) of an intermediate storage facility for spent nuclear fuel from maritime reactors at the Mayak reprocessing plant in Siberia.

For the time being some progress can be noted in three of the projects. First, the container vessels for spent nuclear fuel has been drafted by Kvaerner. These are considered very important for the fuel handling in the Northwest Russia, so the Russian counterparts have been particularly co-operative in this respect.

The second project to show pace is the temporary storage facility for solid radioactive waste at Nerpa Repair yard on Kola. This project has been expanded through the AMEC agreement, to include a solid waste treatment facility.

The third project is the intention to build a new (or complete the partly built existing one) temporary storage facility for maritime spent nuclear fuel at Mayak reprocessing plant. This project received new input in the beginning of 1997, when SGN, SKB, BNFL and Kvaerner Maritime decided to join their efforts to propose cost-efficient solutions and seek funding.

All in all, though; in spite of some progress in a number of projects, the process is proceeding in slow motion. The initiatives are encountering problems related to the Russian lack of a defined distribution of responsibilities, as well as obstructive implementation of secrecy regulations. The latter problem in particular pertains to the research work which has been conducted in connection with the Navy’s nuclear safety problems.

Moreover, there is a tendency towards stricter control of information related to military activities in today’s Russia. Already such problems have been experienced even on the official level of co-operation. For instance, the trip of an official Norwegian delegation to the Navy bases on the Kola Peninsula planned for this summer, was cancelled by the Russians without any further explanations. The expedition was related to some of the projects mentioned above.