A joint Norwegian-Russian mission left Kirkenes on 29. August to visit areas in the Kara Sea where spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste have been dumped. The purpose of the mission is to obtain new information about radioactive pollution and the condition of the dumped items.
The mission will last approximately one month and the aim is to investigate the Stepovogo Bay east of Novaja Semlja. The bay was investigated in 1993 by a Norwegian-Russian mission, and in 2004 by a Russian mission.
In the 1990s there was three Norwegian-Russian missions to the dumping sites in the Kara Sea. At the time, they found low levels of radioactive pollution, but concluded that there are risks of future leaks.
16 scientists and one UN-observer
Norway will participate with scientists from the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority, the Institute of Marine Research, the University of Life Sciences and the Institute for Energy Technology. Russia will have participants from the Federal Service for Hydrometeorology and Environmental Monitoring (Roshydromet), the Kurchatov Institute and the Yuzhmorgeologiya research centre. The United Nations will also send an observer from International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Dumping at sea was previously an internationally-accepted method of disposing of radioactive waste. Most countries stopped this practice in 1985, but the former Soviet Union dumped radioactive waste in the Kara and Barents Seas until 1992. Vessels and submarines are among the items with radioactive waste being dumped in the artic areas.
The radioactive waste is a potential source of pollution in the northern areas. According to a Russian report of 2009, some of this fuel is so highly enriched that the possibility of a nuclear chain reaction could not be excluded under certain circumstances.
More information could be downloaded here.