Norway ships plutonium on commercial flights

The radioactive material plutonium is transportedout of Norway via Gardermoen Airport on commercial flights with unsuspecting passengers onboard, according to a media report.

Norway ships plutonium on commercial flights
Photo: Mad House Photography/Flickr (file)

Plutonium is considered the most harmful known element, and is highly carcinogenic. The plutonium is used for research in the Halden reactor in Norway, according to the Klassekamp newspaper.

The head of the Institute for Energy Technology at the plant has confirmed the report that the plutonium is shipped out by air through Oslo's main airport.

"It doesn't happen often, the last transit was in 2011, and before it has happened about once every two years. All shipments are made in accordance with the regulations, which allows the use of passenger aircraft. So yes, we carry the passenger aircraft, as long as the airline considers it appropriate," Helge Valdseth told the newspaper.

Citing security concerns, Valdseth was however unwilling to indicate which airlines they use to transport the plutonium, confirming only that the regulations stipulated that a maximum of 15 grammes of fissile material can be carried per air shipment.

The practice is furthermore no problem for the Norwegian Radiation Protection Agency (Statens strålevern – NRPA).

"Transporting plutonium by air is within the rules and is problem-free," said Sverre Hornkjøl, a senior advisor at the agency, to Klassekampen.

Sverre Hornkjøl argued that it is no more dangerous to transport plutonium by air than by road.

"Not if you look at the accident statistics. There are more accidents on the roads than in the air," he observed.

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Norway wants to dump nuclear waste on island

Norway’s government wants to dump 1,200 tons of radioactive waste on an island an hour south of Oslo, even though the waste company which owns the site believes it is too dangerous.

Norway wants to dump nuclear waste on island
Langøya viewed from the air: Naturvernforbundet
According to Norway’s VG newspaper, Norway’s Ministry of Industry has hired a Swedish consultant in order to overall the objections from NOAH, which owns the waste dump on Langøya, and so force it to take radioactive sludge from the Søve mines an hour inland. 
“We are reacting very strongly to this,” Stein Lier Hansen, the chief executive of the the industrial trade group NHO, told the newspaper. “It’s simply startling that the ministry is trying to overturn the  expert assessments of a private company.”
Sten Arthur Sælør, NOAH’s chairman, said that the government had first approached him about the using he Langøya site last year. 
“We made two technical evaluations  and both times we concluded that it unfortunately wouldn't work,” he said. 
But Lars Jacob Hiim, a state secretary in the Ministry of Industry, told the newspaper that the Ministry had now hired the state-owned Swedish Defence Research Agency to carry out the assessment. 
“It is true that NOAH is wary of storing waste, because of the possibility that the radioactive material might leak into the sea,” he said. “That’s why we put out to tender a project to study whether it is safe to store radioactive waste there.” 
The disused limestone quarry on Langøya has since 1993 been used by as landfill for hazardous inorganic waste, and is likely to become full within the next few years, with NOAH planning to move to a new site before 2022.
The radioactive slide at the Søve mines dates back to top-secret nuclear experiments from the immediate post war years. 
In 2014, the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority (NRPA) warned the ministry that a permanent dump needed to be found for the radioactive tailings. 
Lier-Hansen pointed out that Finland had already developed nuclear dumping facilities where radioactive waste is disposed of deep in the bedrock. 
“Placing radioactive waste in the middle of the Oslo Fjord, which is the fjord for two million Norwegians, is about as far from being smart as it’s possible to go,” he said. “At worst, an earthquake give radioactive leakage.” 
The Swedish Defence Research Agency is die to deliver its report in Autumn.