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Murmansk Duma: Norway delays replacement of old reactors

Kola NPP is the only nuclear power plant in the world located north of the Arctic Circle. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

Norway’s “No” to import of electricity prolongs the life-time of the two oldest reactors at Kola NPP, claims regional politicians.

Location

The Norwegian Ministry of Oil and Energy last summer ordered Statnett to stop a planned electricity transmission line from Russia’s Kola Peninsula to Norway via the Pasvik valley. The ministry argued that import of electricity from Russia’s north would prolong the time Kola nuclear power plant (NPP) would keep on running the two oldest reactors.

Norway would better see those elderly reactors closed once and forever. 

Statnett, Norway’s state-own company for electricity transmission, was planning a 250-300 MW cross-border line to Skogfoss in the Pasvik valley. Electricity consumption in Finnmark is increasing, while there is a large surplus of electricity on the Kola Peninsula, due to both the four reactors at Kola NPP and the many hydropower plants in the region.

If built, most of the electricity to be imported to Norway via the transmission line would be from the hydropower plants in Russia’s border area. But, it could also be electricity from the nuclear power plant located further south on the Kola Peninsula, since the grid is connected. 

Denying import of electricity will not at all speed up the closure of the two oldest reactors at Kola NPP, the regional Duma in Murmansk argues in a letter sent to the Norwegian parliament’s standing committee on Energy and Environment, reports Teknisk Ukeblad.

“The Norwegian Ministry of Oil and Energy and Norwegian environmental organizations makes a mistake when they claim that the two oldest reactors at Kola NPP would be closed earlier if a new transmission line between Finnmark and Kola is postponed,” reads the letter. 

The Murmansk Oblast Duma argues that Norway’s decision will make it less attractive to build new and modern capacity as replacement to the oldest reactors, since the nuclear power plant loses a potential buyer. “It makes it much easier and cheaper to prolong the operation of the existing reactors,” the letter reads. 

Former speaker in the Duma, Yevgeni Nikora, was working for the Kola NPP before he entered politics.

The two reactors in question are first generation Soviet design pressure-water cooled of model VVER-440/230, commissioned in 1973 and 1975. Norway’s, and other European countries’ concern, is the reactors lack of adequate safety systems and lack of a second safety barrier in the form of containment around the reactor. 

Head of the Norwegian Barents Secretariat, Rune Rafaelsen, partly agrees with the arguments from the Murmansk regional Duma.

In a Column for BarentsObserver, Rune Rafaelsen writes: “Norway has, furthermore, on moral grounds refused to import electricity from the nuclear power plant on Kola Peninsula, while we import power in the south indirectly from the Leningradskaya nuclear power plant with four Chernobyl reactors!”

Finland imports electricity produced at both Kola nuclear power plant and from Leningrad nuclear power plant. Finland and Norway are connected to the same grid-network for exchange of electricity through the Nordic interregional market.