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OSLO, September 1 (Itar-Tass) — Russia and Norway continue to develop cooperation in ensuring nuclear and radiation safety of the polar region. Chairman of Russian Audit Chamber Sergei Stepashin and Auditor General of Norway Mr. Jorgen Kosmo will hold a bilateral meeting here on Thursday on the results of a parallel check of the effectiveness of the use of public funds for these purposes.
“This testifies to trust between our countries in this field. We are glad that we have established effective interaction also in the financial control issue. In general, such an extensive environmental partnership is unique in the world practice,” Norwegian Deputy Foreign Minister Erik Lahnstein said in an interview with Itar-Tass. According to him, the events at the nuclear power plant in Fukushima, Japan have been are a reminder to the whole world that nuclear facilities should be prepared for worst-case scenarios.
“It is evident to everyone that the oldest and most dangerous power units should be decommissioned,” he said. According to Lahnstein, several experts of his country are confident that it is necessary to develop the atomic energy of new generation. “The discussions of the kind have already been held in the [Norwegian] parliament. In particular, the participants in the discussions raised the question on the use of safer lead-cooled fast thorium reactors,” the Norwegian deputy foreign minister said. “At the same time, this is still a long way in the future. There is no majority in the national parliament in order to consider such a possibility in principle. Progress is running out, and we are keeping eyes on the development of high technologies,” the Norwegian high-ranking diplomat said.
For the support of the relevant environmental projects in north-western regions of Russia in the period from 1995 to 2009 the Norwegian parliament allocated a total of about 1.4 billion kronas (262 million US dollars). According to a report of the Office of the Auditor General of Norway, a significant part of activities envisaged by the program has already been completed. In particular, it is the modernisation of systems for the protection of the Kola NPP, the dismantling of strontium batteries in lighthouses and scrapping of decommissioned nuclear submarines. In addition, repairs of a spent nuclear fuel storage facility in the Andreyeva Bay have been made, however, the nuclear waste removal from it has not yet been started.
Andreyeva Bay is the primary spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste storage facility for the RF Northern Fleet. This facility contains about 21,000 spent nuclear fuel assemblies and about 12,000 cubic metres of solid and liquid radioactive wastes. There are three wet storage tanks in the Andreyeva Bay facility, containing large volumes of spent nuclear fuel. These tanks are deteriorating due to poor maintenance and the harsh Arctic climate. Much of the legacy fuel at this facility has been stored in unlicensed transportation casks out in the open with no protection from the elements. Many of these casks are also deteriorating. Similar storage facilities exist in the Russian Pacific Fleet on the Shkotovo Peninsula near Vladivostok. Storage of spent nuclear fuel remains a problem: there is a total of three makeshift storage tanks in the Andreyeva Bay facility which contain large volumes of spent nuclear fuel. Andreeva bay is located on the Litsa Fjord only 30 miles from the border of Norway. The storage tanks are deteriorating due to poor maintenance and the harsh Arctic climate with severe freezing and thawing cycles. The deterioration could result in leakage to the marine environment. This has resulted in elevated levels of Cesium-137 in Andreyeva Bay and Litsa Fjord. Studies have shown that this contamination has not moved into the Barents Sea.
Signing of a memorandum and a joint press conference is planned on the results of the Thursday talks in Oslo.