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Reduced risk but still major challenges in North-Western Russia

Norwegian-funded measures aimed at securing and removing radioactive sources and waste from North-Western Russia have helped to reduce the risk of accidents and radioactive pollution, and of radioactive sources falling into the wrong hands. Several tasks and challenges remain, however. - Much remains to be clarified, including plans for clearing Andreyev Bay and long-term storage of the radioactive waste there, says Auditor General Jørgen Kosmo.
Published 5/11/2010 12:25 PM
Document 3:9 (2009–2010) The Office of the Auditor General’s investigation into radiation safety and protection of the environment against pollution from radioactive sources in North-Western Russia was submitted to the Storting on 11 May 2010. The investigation is a parallel audit by the Norwegian OAG and the Russian Audit Chamber, a collaboration that has proved useful and produced good results.

During the period from 1995 to 2009, the Storting allocated more than NOK 1.4 billion to work on nuclear safety in North-Western Russia. The OAG’s investigation shows that measures financed by Norwegian funds have largely been implemented as planned. These are measures intended to improve safety at Kola nuclear power plant, the scrapping of obsolete nuclear-powered submarines, the removal of radioactive batteries from lighthouses along the coast of the Kola Peninsula and the removal of spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste from the abandoned naval base in Andreyev Bay. Several important tasks remain to be solved, however. Work has yet to begin in Andreyev Bay on removing the spent nuclear fuel that is stored there under very unsatisfactory conditions. The scrapping of the nuclear-powered submarines has necessitated the storage of large amounts of radioactive waste and the handling of other environmentally harmful waste. - The long-term storage capacity and capacity to handle other environmentally-harmful waste have yet to be clarified, says Mr Kosmo. - That is a matter of concern.

It also emerged that the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, despite corruption being an extensive problem in Russia, lacks systematic analyses of the risk of corruption or irregularities in connection with the measures. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is doing little to follow up financial management of the project as it progresses over and above the project supervisors' inspections and ensuring that payments are disbursed when the agreed results are achieved. This also applies in cases in which errors and deficiencies have been identified in the accounts for the investigated projects.

The Norwegian authorities do not have sufficient information about the level of radioactivity in areas near central radioactive sources, such as the ocean and fjord area outside Andreyev Bay. Nor are regular samples taken from important known sources. As regards notification of nuclear accidents, the Norwegian and Russian authorities have neither reached agreement on which types of incidents are to be notified nor on the threshold level for notification. - Accidents and pollution in this area will have grave consequences for the health and safety of the population, and for the environment and business interests in Norway, concludes Jørgen Kosmo.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs agrees that there is still a substantial risk of radioactive pollution from sources in North-Western Russia. At the same time, however, the Ministry points out that the Norwegian-Russian collaboration has produced many concrete results in the area of nuclear safety.

The document can be downloaded via the link on the right.

The deferral of public access to documents prepared by or for the Office of the Auditor General in connection with Document No 3:9 (2009-2010), cf. the Act relating to the Office of the Auditor General section 18 second paragraph, is hereby set aside.

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