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Russian Arctic radioactive waste storage project may be dropped after public hearings

November 30, 2015, 14:36 UTC+3 ARKHANGELSK
The site is to be located on the territory of the Russian central range, which is not designed for any economic activity as the tests of nuclear weapons were conducted there
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The settlement of Belushya Guba on the Novaya Zemlya archipelago (archive)

The settlement of Belushya Guba on the Novaya Zemlya archipelago (archive)

© N.Malyshev/ITAR-TASS

ARKHANGELSK, November 30. /TASS/. The project of building a low-and medium-level radioactive waste storage facility on the Novaya Zemlya archipelago may be halted at any stage following public hearings, Project Head of the National Operator for Radioactive Waste Management Yana Markina told TASS on Monday.

"All of the project’s significant stages will involve public hearings," she said. "The project may be halted at any stage."

"The preliminary stage includes survey works, investment substantiation, the preparation of design and working documentation, the creation of infrastructure on the coast and on the site and the facility’s preparation for receiving the first radioactive waste," the expert said.

"The expenditures at the preliminary stage will total about 12 billion rubles [$180 million] and the potential term before the start of the facility’s construction is seven years," she said.

The project submitted to the Arkhangelsk Region legislature in northwest Russia envisages establishing the so-called "facility for the final isolation of radioactive waste accumulation" from the whole of the Northwest Federal District.

The facility is expected to be set up near Bashmachnaya Guba Bay in the southern part of Yuzhny Island of the Novaya Zemlya archipelago.

The site will be located on the territory of the Russian central range, which is not designed for any economic activity as the tests of nuclear weapons were conducted there.

Geographically, the site is located far from Russian densely-populated areas. The nearest settlement of Belushya Guba is 100 kilometers (62.1 miles) away from the site.

The project envisages construction of a facility at a depth of up to 100 meters from the surface. The facility will accommodate 200,000 m3 of radioactive waste containers and can be expanded to store 400,000 m3.

As much as 4,000 m3 of radioactive waste can be buried in the storage annually. Radioactive waste will be stored in reinforced concrete and metal containers measuring 1.65x1.65x1.375 meters, which will be placed in horizontal circular excavations. The container’s service life equals 300 years.

It will take seven years to make the facility operational. Its first stage is designed for a 56 year-long operation.

The expenditures will total 48.6 billion rubles ($740 million), with 243,000 rubles (3,700 dollars) per 1 m3 of radioactive waste.

"The calculations have shown that the radioactive waste storage will have no impact on humans and the environment if it is used in a proper manner," the project developers said in an explanatory note.

According to experts, about 50 tons of radioactive wastes of these types have been accumulated in the Arkhangelsk Region.

Until 1992, the sea area near the Novaya Zemlya archipelago was the main zone for storing solid radioactive waste produced by Soviet military and civil nuclear-powered vessels based in the north.

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