Enormous quantities of decommissioned Russian nuclear reactors and radioactive waste were dumped into the Kara Sea in the Arctic Ocean north of Siberia over a course of decades, according to documents given to Norwegian officials by Russian authorities and published in Norwegian media.
Bellona had received in 2011 a draft of a similar report prepared for Russia’s Gossoviet, the State Council, for presentation at a meeting presided over by then-president Dmitry Medvedev on Russian environmental security.
The Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom confirmed the figures in February of this year during a seminar it jointly held with Bellona in Moscow.
Bellona is alarmed by the extent of the dumped Soviet waste, which is far greater than was previously known – not only to Bellona, but also to the Russian authorities themselves.
The catalogue of waste dumped at sea by the Soviets, according to documents seen by Bellona, and which were today released by the Norwegian daily Aftenposten, includes some 17,000 containers of radioactive waste, 19 ships containing radioactive waste, 14 nuclear reactors, including five that still contain spent nuclear fuel; 735 other pieces of radiactively contaminated heavy machinery, and the K-27 nuclear submarine with its two reactors loaded with nuclear fuel.
Per Strand of the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority told Aftenposten that the information on the radioactive waste had come from the Russian authorities gradually.
“No one can guarantee that this outline we have received is complete,” he said.
Bellona’s Igor Kurdrik, an expert on Russian naval nuclear waste, said that, “We know that the Russians have an interest in oil exploration in this area. They therefore want to know were the radioactive waste is so they can clean it up before they beging oil recovery operations.”
The most crucial find missing
Kudrik said that one of the most critical pieces of information missing from the report released to the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority was the presence of the K-27 nuclear submarine, which was scuttled in 50 kilometers of water with its two reactors filled with spent nuclear fuel in in Stepovogo Bay in the Kara Sea in 1981.
Information that the reactors about the K-27 could reachieve criticality and explode was released at the Bellona-Rosatom seminar in February.
“This danger had previously been unknown, and is very important information. When they search and map these reactors, they must be the first priority,” said Kudrik.