Norwegian experts enter nuclear waste site

Her lagres brukt atombrensel og radioaktivt avfall fra den russiske Nordflåten sine atomubåter. Få steder i verden er høyaktivt atomavfall lagret så uforsvarlig som i Andreeva-bukta.
Foto: Bellona

Publish date: May 29, 2001

Written by: Vladislav Nikifоrov

First in the history secret nuclear site in Andreeva bay was opened for Western experts, after the funding had been promised.

Russia’s Northern Fleet opened a secret nuclear waste dump in the Arctic to the Western officials for the first time. After Norway had promised decent investments in clean-up operation, Russians allowed access to the closed military site. If other Western countries want to make contributions, they are welcome to visit Andreyeva bay, promised Russian nuclear deputy minister, Valery Lebedev.

A Norwegian delegation led by Deputy Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide was allowed into the Andreeva Bay base, where tons of highly radioactive waste and spent nuclear are stored roughly 55 kilometres from the Russian-Norwegian boarder.

2. Quay facility, Building 32.

4. Purification facility for liquid radioactive waste (never taken into use). Used today for other purposes.

6. Three large, partially buried concrete containers for dry storage of spent nuclear fuel.

7. Crane for transfer operations of spent nuclear fuel.

8. An enclosed area in which containers of spent nuclear fuel are stored.

9. Concrete bunker divided into compartments and an open area in which solid radioactive waste is stored.

“This really is an area we must do something about. Very large amounts of radioactive waste are stored here under very unfavourable conditions, and we have seen a facility marked by such decay that there is reason to take action as soon as possible,” Eide said from Russia in an interview broadcast by the Norwegian state radio network NRK.

This year Norway plans to allocate more than $1 million to solve nuclear waste problems in Andreeva bay, more money to come later, Norwegian daily Aftenposten reports. Total Norwegian investment into Russian nuclear safety equals nearly $15 million by this year.

The work will be done by the Russian civilian company SevRAO under the management of the Russian Ministry for Nuclear Energy (Minatom). The nuclear waste site will be handed over from the Northern Fleet to the authority of Minatom, represented by SevRAO.

9d5e6aafa87e2b8ad6aec9a767f7df75.jpeg Photo: Foto: Bellona

By the end of 2000, fuel from 118 reactor cores were being stored at onshore bases and nuclear service ships of the Northern Fleet, and a further 130 reactor cores still remained in the retired submarines. A total of 248 reactor cores are stored at the Northern Fleet, corresponding to 99 tons of spent nuclear fuel with radioactivity of 74.5 million Ci.

The largest storage for spent nuclear fuel is located in Andreeva Bay, which is situated on the north-western side of the Kola Peninsula.

21,640 spent nuclear fuel assemblies (93 reactor cores) containing 35 tons of fuel materials are stored in Andreeva Bay with a total radioactivity of 26,8 million Ci. Spent nuclear fuel assemblies are stored in three dry concrete tanks and in containers placed in the open on a storage pad. Bellona Foundation researchers estimate that at least 40-50% of total number of assemblies are is damaged. There is also a number of storage sites for solid and liquid radioactive waste.

The rain and snow wash radioactivity out from spent fuel storage tanks into the Litsa Fjord. To prevent that one of the projects Norwegian Foreign Ministry intends to fund is building a roof over the tanks.

The whole area in Andreeva Bay is radioactively contaminated and in the long-term perspective the remediation of the whole site is required. The most modest estimates say that as much as $10 million must be cashed in to secure the site and recover the area. The opening up of the site for the Western contributors may let the funding coming in and boost the international cooperation to clean up the most nightmarish nuclear storage site of the Northern Fleet.