Last month Norway signed an agreement of intent stipulating Norway will finance replacement of all the radioisotope thermoelectric generators, or RTGs, used as power sources for lighthouses and navigation beacons in the north-west Russia. It is more than 110 generators situated in the remote areas in Murmansk, Arkhangelsk and Nenetz regions. The agreement was signed in the frames of the international conference on RTGs decommissioning organised by the Norwegian Foreign Ministry. The representatives of French Foreign Ministry, the Russian Defence Ministry, Rosatom, Mayak plant, IAEA, administration of Murmansk region and Finnmark county, NRPA and DOE took part in event.
Under-secretary of State Kim Traavik and deputy director of Rosatom, co-chairman of MNEPR Sergey Antipov signed the agreement. In 2005, it is expected to decommission 31 nuclear generators. Rosatom concern promised to replace all the lighthouse nuclear generators in Russia by 2012.
The chief of economy department of Murmansk region Alexander Ruzankin said to Interfax, that on January 1, 2001, 153 radioisotope thermoelectric generators were scattered along the coast of the Barents and White Sea. By 1 January, 2005, 55 generators had been decommissioned and sent to the Mayak plant thanks to the financial assistance from Norway. In 2005, 31 RTGs are scheduled for decommissioning. According to Ruzankin, if the same tempo of decommissioning remains, all the RTGs in the north-west could be replaced by 2010, Interfax reported.
Bellona was one of the observers at the conference and approves the reached agreements as the RTGs are not just dangerous from the environmental point of view, but also can become the threat for non-proliferation of the radioactive materials and can be used for dirty bomb. We also welcome the establishment of the interdepartmental commission by Rosatom which began listing off all the RTGs on the Russian territory said Bellonas representative Igor Koudrik. At the same time Bellona stands for faster RTGs replacement tempo (earlier than 2012) as practically every year they are vandalised by the precious metal hunters. Besides, not only financing is needed for the RTGs decommissioning, but the infrastructure development. For example, Mayak plant is capable to decommission only 100 RTGs per year while, according to the estimations, Russia has more than 1000 RTGs. Therefore, it is necessary to analyse the whole chain of the RTGs decommissioning and come to the right solution said Igor Koudrik.