Appeal to the State Duma, ministries, departments and scientists

Publish date: April 12, 2004

Written by: Grigory Pasko

After a seminar entitled “Spent Nuclear Fuel and Radioactive Waste Handling and Storage in the Kola Peninsula,” its participants voted to adopt an appeal to the State Duma of the Russian Federation, government ministries, federal departments, and scientists.

Noting the growing public concern over radioactive contamination, the appeal read, the State Duma’s Committee on Natural Resources and the Duma Committee on the Environment, consider the problem of spent nuclear fuel, or SNF, handling pressing and find it necessary to take immediate actions on funding environment enhancement in the Kola Peninsula.

The appeal also stated that the total amount of accumulated irradiated nuclear fuel is above 21,000 working channels and that solid radioactive waste is more than 25,000 cubic meters. Since the end of the 1980s, 114 nuclear power submarines have been withdraw from service in the Northern Fleet. An on-shore engineering base in Andreyeva Bay, which was created in the 1960s for nuclear power submarine maintenance, received and stored fresh and irradiated nuclear fuel and solid and liquid radioactive waste. During its long-term service, protective barriers from SNF and radioactive waste storage facilities degraded and partly lost their ability to function, causing the penetration of radioactive waste into the ground and the contamination of constructions, areas and waterways, and the formation of radioactive contamination sources.

During nuclear power plant operation, a considerable amount of SNF and radioactive waste has accumulated at the Lepse floating technical base. The Lepse is located on the Kola Bay in the center of Murmansk, a city with a population of approximately 350,000, which is almost half of the population of the Murmansk Region. The major portion of the SNF and radioactive waste aboard the Lepse is in damaged condition, presenting a real radio-ecological danger to the Murmansk Region.

The assessment of operational conditions at storage facility 2-A (Anreyeva Bay)has shown that permissible exposure time for staffers handling SNF is 19 seconds a day. Such a short time illustrates that the preparation of spent fuel for shipment will be complicated and time-consuming. The operaations are impossible without special technology and equipment.

The condition of casks and fuel at storage facility 3-A (the Lepse) is unknown because the storage examination is impossible for a fuel unloading project approved in 1982. It is evident that the fuel condition in this storage facility is the most critical, and radiation exposure is constantly increasing.

Rehabilitation works require the complete reconstruction of infrastructure concerning the safety of dangerous technological operations and the compliance of personnel with environment protection norms and regulations. At present, such an infrastructure is being created at federal expense and with western technical assistance. Only Norway has invested more than NOK 65m in Andreyeva Bay. Sweden and Great Britain are also funding the programme.

On this basis, the State Duma of the Russian Federation ratified a Framework Agreement on a multilateral nuclear and environmental program in the Russian Federation and a protocol to the agreement concerning claims, litigation and indemnity against liability, which were signed in Stockholm on May 21, 2003.

The purpose of the above-mentioned multilateral Framework Agreement and the Protocol is to develop a legal basis for a long-term cooperation to ensure nuclear and radiation safety in northwest Russia during nuclear power submarines dismantling and SNF and radioactive waste handling. Subsequently, a legal basis has been created in Russia for the program on environment enhancement in the SNF and radioactive waste storage areas.

Given the critical environmental situation in the Kola Peninsula and the importance of a rapid solution to this problem, the appeal says, it is necessary that the environmental enhancement of the Murmansk Region environment should be considered one of the goernment’s main priorities.

The seminar participants suggested the State Duma fund—and increase funding—to resolve the above objectives, and to confirm the mutual interest in the enhancement of the Kola Peninsula environment at parliamentary meetings with the EEC and European countries.

Russia’s ministries and departments have been offered to regularly monitor the environment condition and implement programs on the enhancement of Russia’s Kola Peninsula.

The scientific community and Russia’s public expect the Russian Academy of Sciences to expand research in the robotic handling of SNF in ruined facilities to prevent further contamination to humansand to ensure safe handling of damaged SNF and radioactive waste.