Andreyeva Bay – a history of successful international cooperation

building5 The notorious building No. 5 at Andreyeva Bay. (Photo: Bellona)

MURMANSK – Bellona and Russian nuclear corporation Rosatom Tuesday opened a joint seminar in Murmansk to discuss notorious nuclear submarine fuel graveyard Andreyeva Bay.

Discussion of the former nuclear submarine maintenance base, only a few kilometers from the Norwegian border, drew a crowd of more than 100 Russian and international experts who discussed clean up of an accident that occurred at the base in 1982, international finance devoted to the base’s remediation, the progress of Rosatom’s work to bring the base into safe condition, and milestones toward doing so.

Andreyeva Bay accident

Some 350 submarine reactors were seviced at Andreyeva Bay between 1961 and 2000, according to former submarine captain first rank Vyacheslav Pervosky. He added that 147 canisters of spent nuclear fuel were removed from the bay.

In 1982 an accident occurred at the base’s building No. 5. Pervosky said the towering walls of the building had design flaws.

“Aside from that, the fuel was not hermetically stored – the fuel canisters were unsound and allowed fission products to leak into the water reservoirs,” he told the gathering.

fuelstorageandreyeva Canisters with spent fuel assemblies on the bottom of the pool in Building No. 5.

Pervosky said the storage facility didn’t have cooling water intake to clean the water from radionuclides, the water in the cooling pools has not been changed at all in 20 years. In the narrow passes in the cooling pool, the canisters would brush against one another, the chain suspensions would get stretched out and canister suspension would fail.

Likewise, when water started leaking out because of cracks in the pool lining, the canisters were under a real risk of losing the protective layer of water.

He also said that reconstruction continued without break, and the personal of building No. 5 got the dirtiest work – repacking the fuel assemblies, distributing the fuel casings into consoles and identifying irradiated fuel assemblies.

He said personnel’s actions prevented a massive escape of radiation.

Alexander Nikitin, chairman of the Environmental Rights Center (ERC) Bellona, said his organizations has located 31 of the accident liquidators from Andreyev Bay and presented them with commendations.

“When we have unloaded and taken away all the spent fuel, we will write a book about it,” said Nikitin, “God willing we will complete it all without any accidents or incidents.”

International cooperation

Duma Deputy Gennady Sklyar noted to the gathering that the important work now underway at Andreyeva Bay would not have been possible without international cooperation.

fredericandreyeva2 Bellona President Frederic Hauge receiving the Vernadsky Prize. (Photo: Nils Bøhmer/Bellona)

“When we speak about problems of a world order, all countries must work together – this facilitates solving problems and the developments of technology,” Sklyar said.

Assistant deputy of the Murmansk region Alexei Tyukavin also expressed gratitude for international cooperation on Andreyeva Bay, without which he said the project would have gone far slower.

Russia and Norway have long cooperated on solving testy issues of safety in the heavily nuclear and military Northwest Russia. The government of Norway alone has allocated 2 billion kroner ($242 million) for projects in this sphere.”

“Cooperation in the areas of nuclear and radiation safety between Russia and Norway is very important to us,” said general consul of Norway in the Murmansk region, Ole Andreas Lindeman. “This is a history of successful efforts from many countries between 1995 and 2015.

Lindeman underscored that its important to Norway that civil society have influence in this area.

We are glad to see transparency in these projects and close ties between Rosatom and Bellona,” said Lindeman.

In recognition of the contribution of Bellona in areas of nuclear and radiation safety, Bellona President Frederic Hauge was awarded the Vernadsky Ecology Prize.

 

Charles Digges

charles@bellona.no