The Russian state corporation Rosatom is preparing to obtain the status of an organization responsible for the removal of sunken nuclear submarines from the Arctic waters.
The rise of decommissioned submarines and the improvement of nuclear and radiation safety were the main topics of the 23rd meeting of the joint Russian-Norwegian commission on cooperation in the field of environmental protection.
While Moscow will take the lead in the efforts, the Norwegian government and Bellona (international environmental protection NGO, based in Oslo) have long encouraged Russia to raise the vessels, as their unstable reactors pose a risk of contaminating critical fishing waters close to Scandinavia’s northern coast.
“I am very pleased that we were able to hold a meeting of the commission, despite the pandemic,” said Audun Halvorsen, the state secretary to the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. “It is extremely important for us that such events should not be interrupted, and that we continue to conduct an open dialogue and exchange information, since for Norway cooperation with Russia in the field of nuclear and radiation safety is a priority. We have achieved a lot in 25 years.”
In 2020, the development of a feasibility study on the safe handling of flooded and sunken objects was completed.
The four-year project involved an international consortium under a contract between the European Commission and the Italian company Sogin.
The experts created a database of flooded and sunken objects, assessed their danger, as well as the amount of funding and the timing of the work.
Earlier, in 2019, the document was discussed at several international conferences, the conclusion is that such dangerous objects cannot be left to descendants, they must be removed and brought into a safe state.
Anatoly Grigoryev, who heads the international programs division of Rosatom, Russia’s state nuclear corporation, said that the process of securing the Lepse, which accrued 639 spent nuclear fuel assemblies from icebreakers during its career, will be achieved by the end of this year.
As for Andreyeva Bay, radiation danger there has been decreased by a third, he said.
Of the 22,000 nuclear fuel assemblies that had piled up at the old navy base over the years, Grigoriyev said that 7,500 had thus far been removed. By the end of the year, several fuel assemblies that had been stored in the open air at the facility will also be taken away, he said.
“Last fall, I personally was in Andreev Bay and could observe how safely the spent nuclear fuel was shipped from the facility to the vessel and leaves for Atomflot,” said ElisabethVik Aspaker, head of Norway’s Tromsø region.
Ole Harbitz, who heads Norway’s Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority hailed Rosatom’s willingness to recover sunken Soviet subs and other radioactive debris from Arctic waters.
According to Grigoryev, the total activity of the Cold War-era nuclear cast off is some 1 million Curie. Raising it all, is estimates to cost €123 million.
The goals to be completed by 2027 are to remove nuclear fuel from the facilities of the northwestern part of the Russian Arctic, complete the disposal of submarines, nuclear icebreakers and support vessels, and proceed to the active phase of the facility rehabilitation.
By this time, it is possible that the most dangerous of the submarines that have sunk and sunken in the Arctic have already begun to lift.
“Taking into account the fact that we already have a positive experience, we will most likely solve these problems positively,” Anatoly Grigoriev concluded.
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