Norwegians dissatisfied with sub fire info

Gunnar Kjønnøy, country administrator of Finnmark wants better exchange of information when accidents happens with nuclear submarines. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

Gunnar Kjønnøy, county administrator of Finnmark, claims Russia has violated the regional obligation they have to warn about accidents involving nuclear installations.


Finnmark is Norway’s northernmost county that borders Russia’s Kola Peninsula where last week’s fire in a nuclear powered submarine happened. The fired triggered massive media-coverage in Norway over concerns of possible radioactive leakages.

Gunnar Kjønnøy says to NTB that Russian authorities might have another understanding of the seriousness in the situation. – But for us that see this via the media, the TV-images looked dramatic, Kjønnøy says.

He claims the Russians have violated a regional obligation they have to warn of nuclear accidents.

Finnmark county administration coordinates regional nuclear emergency plans. The office is also active in ensuring that regional and local public agencies develop strategic plans for dealing with a possible nuclear disaster. Norway has all the time since the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986 had a high focus on radiation preparedness. The Norwegian Radiation Protection Authorities has their own preparedness division we regional presence at Svanhovd environmental centre just some few hundred meters from Norway’s northern border to Russia.

No Norwegian authorities were informed by Russian officials when the fire in the “Yekaterinburg” nuclear powered submarine happened on December 29th in the floating dock at the naval yard in Roslyakova north of Murmansk.

- There’s no doubt that we would have preferred that Norway was warned about the accident, State Secretary Erik Lahnstein in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said after the fire, according to the on-line publication Views and News from Norway.

Norway has a bi-lateral agreement with Russia about sharing information in case of accidents involving nuclear installations. Russia has also signed the international convention on informing neighboring countries about accidents. The convention says that warnings should be issued when there is a situation where: “A release of radioactive material occurs or is likely to occur and which has resulted or may result in an international transboundary release that could be of radiological safety significance for another State.”   

The fire in the “Yekaterinburg” nuclear powered submarine happened in the front bow part of the submarine while the two nuclear reactors are located further back inside the strong hull in the reactor compartment. Both reactors where shut-down after the sub was taken into the floating dock on December 8th as previously reported by BarentsObserver.