Russian radioactive clean-up projects agreed

Norwegian commission launches new spending round, UK chips in on nuclear submarines

A Norwegian-Russian commission has announced a number of new environmental projects in Russia following three days of talks in Oslo, which ended yesterday. The meeting marks the tenth anniversary of the joint Commission on Environmental Protection, which is now channelling about NKr50m (euros 5.75m) annually into protecting damaged environments in the north-west of Russia, according to Norway's government.

The main focus of the new funding is Russia's disastrous legacy of radioactivity and nuclear waste problems. Six projects are aimed at dealing with specific issues under this theme. These include a survey of marine pollution associated with the nuclear installation at the Mayak Production Association in the Southern Urals, which is thought to be one of the most radioactively contaminated sites in the world (ENDS Daily 27 November 1997).

Other radioactivity projects are: monitoring of emissions from a cleansing plant for liquid radioactive waste at RTP Atomflot in Murmansk; an analysis of the long-term consequences of increased radioactive emissions in the north; a joint project to build up an automatic monitoring system for radioactive pollution in north-western Russia; an exchange of monitoring data between Norway and Russia; and a study of effects on Arctic populations and environment of emissions to the river Yenisey from nuclear installation at Krasnoyarsk.

Other new projects include help in building up a contingency system for Russian oil exploration and extraction, which the Norwegians consider a priority, especially in the Barents Sea. It is also hoped to complete later this year a Local Agenda 21 project to build a drinking water purification plant on Kola, the success of which has prompted several Norwegian local authorities to seek Russian partners for similar work.

The commission's latest meeting, its seventh, marks its first decade in existence. According to Per Antonsen of the Norwegian environment ministry, Norway has spent well over NKr1bn on "many hundreds" of joint environmental projects over the period. During this time, the emphasis has shifted from investment to capacity building, Mr Antonsen added. "The need is not only for money, but more for competence and know-how."

* In a related development, UK foreign minister Robin Cook yesterday announced that Britain would contribute UK£3m (euros 4.36m) to a project intended to prevent radioactive pollution from old Russian submarine nuclear fuel rods currently stored aboard a ship in Murmansk harbour. Mr Cook said that most of the money would be spent on providing casks to ensure safer storage of the rods, some of which are damaged. British nuclear firm BNFL is set to benefit from the contracts, according to press reports, though ENDS Daily could not obtain confirmation of this today.

Follow Up:
Norwegian environment ministry, +47 22 24 90 90; UK foreign ministry, tel: +44 171 270 4077.

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