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Russian nuclear waste in polar seas

The Sovjet Union has „deposited“ vast amounts of radioactive substances on the sea bottom in the Russian sector of the Barents Sea and the Kara Sea (east of Novaya Zemlya), including nuclear waste, reactors from submarines and ships and vessels with nuclear components or cargo that sank or were sunk. This is generally no news. Now, Russian authorities have made an inventory list of nuclear substances on sea bottoms adjacent to Norwegian waters available to Norwegian authorities. The quantities have surprised even insiders. On the list are not, as believed so far, 11,000 containers with nuclear waste, but at least 17,000 (yes, seventhousand), additionally 19 ships with nuclear cargo, 5 reactor sections, 3 nuclear submarines, nuclear fuel from the icebreaker Lenin and „735 other radioactive units“, whatever this means. And of course nobody knows if this list is comprehensive.

Now, Russian and Norwegian authorities make joint efforts to map the exact positions and conditions of the nuclear graveyards.

So far, investigations have proven the waters and biota of the Barents Sea to have very low levels of radioactivity. This may change, when reactors or containers are damaged in the future. In single cases, even the development of chain reactions up to nuclear explosions is believed to be possible by environmentalists. Officials have not confirmed this.

Large efforts have already been made, also with financial and practical support from the EU and Norway, to retreave radioactive wrecks, reactors and waste from the coasts of the Kola Peninsula. The efforts are obviously to be increased and continued to avoid major disasters for environment and people. The long-term disposal of radioactive is a question with very serious implications for environment and societies and so far an unanswered question.

The Russian nuclear icebreaker Yamal, 2004 in Franz Josef Land. Foto © Christine Reinke-Kunze.

Russian nuclear waste in polar seas

Source: Aftenposten, 28 August 2012

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last modification: 2014-07-01 · copyright: Rolf Stange
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