“We are aware that there are proposals for adjustments in Sweden’s nuclear cooperation with Russia. From the Norwegian side, we aim to continue our efforts,” says Director Johnny Almestad with the Norwegian Foreign Ministry to BarentsObserver.
Almestad coordinates the ministry’s nuclear cooperation with Russia. Norway has granted some €200 million over the last two decades, mainly to projects in the north, like removing radioactive sources from lighthouses, scrapping of nuclear powered submarines, physical protection of areas with fissile- and radioactive materials and securing solid and liquid radioactive waste from the Soviet times.
On May 16, Murmansk Governor Marina Kovtun will meet Norway’s northernmost Governor, Gunnar Kjønnøy in Finnmark, and sign the 2014-agreement on projects to be implemented.
Kjønnøy says to BarentsObserver that the focus now is the Andreeva bay, where thousands of spent nuclear fuel elements from the fleet of Cold War submarines are stored in poor, ramshackle conditions.
“Our four projects for this year are preliminary works aimed at making it possible to do the removal of the spent nuclear fuel,” says Gunnar Kjønnøy.
The nuclear safety cooperation with Northwest-Russia has since start-up in the mid-90ies always been a multi-lateral Dutch treat between many countries. Last week, Sweden announced their withdrawal, saying “Russia has occupied parts of a sovereign state.” Swedish funding has, among other projects, also been spent in Andreeva bay where Norway argues it is in their own interest to pursue the work.
“It’s in Norway’s interest to continue the nuclear cooperation with Russia as long as there are significant challenges associated with radioactive- and nuclear materials. Norway’s efforts contribute to our own safety,” says Johnny Almestad, underlining the main responsibility rests on Russia.
He says Norway is not considering cutting the nuclear safety cooperation due to Russia’s conflict with Ukraine.
“Norway will continue cooperation with Russia. The crisis is not a bilateral question, but a result of Russia’s violation of international law with the annexation of the Crimea. Norway has responded to this in the same way as our NATO allies and partners in the EU. Some political visits have been postponed, and Norway has joined the EU restrictive measures, ie the freezing of financial assets and travel restrictions on individuals,” says Almestad.
Andreeva bay is located less than 60 kilometers from Russia’s northern border to Norway. A long-term plan has been developed on how to remove all spent nuclear and solid radioactive waste from the area. The spent uranium fuel will be sent to Murmansk for further transport to the reprocessing plant in Mayak in the South-Urals, while the radioactive waste will be shipped to a new, intermediate storage site built in Saida bay further east on the coast of the Kola Peninsula.