Enormous quantities of decommissioned Russian nuclear reactors and radioactive waste were dumped into the Kara Sea in the Arctic Ocean north of Siberia over a course of decades, according to documents given to Norwegian officials by Russian authorities and published in Norwegian media.
Bellona had received in 2011 a draft of a similar report prepared for Russia’s Gossoviet, the State Council, for presentation at a meeting presided over by then-president Dmitry Medvedev on Russian environmental security.
The Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom confirmed the figures in February of this year during a seminar it jointly held with Bellona in Moscow.
Bellona is alarmed by the extent of the dumped Soviet waste, which is far greater than was previously known - not only to Bellona, but also to the Russian authorities themselves.
The catalogue of waste dumped at sea by the Soviets, according to documents seen by Bellona, and which were today released by the Norwegian daily Aftenposten, includes,
The K-27 nuclear submarine, which was sunk by the Soviet Navy in 1981 for disposal,
poses a possible risk of exploding beneath the sea.
The submarine was not
among radioactive hazards cataloged by Russian Authorities.
Bellona’s two decades on the case
He acknowledged, however, that a precise accounting from the Russian side could hardly be expected given Russia’s own ignorance of the extent of the dumped radioactive waste.
Hauge demanded that Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre take the issue up with his counterparts in the Russian foreign ministry as soon as possible.
Per Strand of the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority told Aftenposten that the information on the radioactive waste had come from the Russian authorities gradually.
He added that Russia has set up a special commission to undertake the task of mapping the waste, the paper reported.
A Norwegian-Russian Expert Group will this week start an expedition in areas of the Kara Sea, which the report released by Russia says was used as a radioactive dump until the early 1990s.
The expedition will represent the first time Norway has participated in pluming the depths of Russian waters for radioactive waste since 1994, said Aftenposten.
Making way for oil exploration
Bellona’s Igor Kurdrik, an expert on Russian naval nuclear waste, said that,
He cautiously praised the openness of the Russian report given to Norway and that Norway would be taking part in the waste charting expedition.
Bellona thinks that Russia has passed its report to Norway as a veiled cry for help, as the extent of the problem is far too great for Moscow to handle on its own.
The most crucial find missing
Kudrik said that one of the most critical pieces of information missing from the report released to the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority was the presence of the K-27 nuclear submarine, which was scuttled in 50 kilometers of water with its two reactors filled with spent nuclear fuel in in Stepovogo Bay in the Kara Sea in 1981.
Information that the reactors about the K-27 could re-achieve criticality and explode was released at the Bellona-Rosatom seminar in February.
Researchers will now evaluate whether it is possible to raise the submarine, and attempt to determine if it is leaking radioactivity into the sea.
Bård Vegar Solhjell, Norway’s Minster of the Environment sought in Aftenposten to play down dangers associated with the enormous Soviet-era nuclear dumping ground.
He added that he was not aware of any risk of explosion aboard the sunken K-27.
Other sources of contamination
Similar joint expeditions between Russia and Norway to map radioactive waste were undertaken in the waters east of Novaya Zemlya in 1992, 1993, and 1994.
The expeditions aimed to establish the dangers posed by the dumped radioactive waste.
Novaya Zemlya was a nuclear weapons testing site during the Cold War.
Russia has conducted a number of other expeditions to chart undersea sources of radioactive pollution since 1994, but without Norwegian assistance, said Aftenposten.