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NUCLEAR

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. 
 

NUCLEAR

Soviet subs risk ‘slow Chernobyl’ in Norway

One of Norway's leading environmentalists has warned that derelict Soviet nuclear submarines close to the country's northern borders risk causing a "Chernobyl in slow motion".

Soviet subs risk 'slow Chernobyl' in Norway
The K-159 submarine before it sank during a failed attempt to move it in 2004. It is only a matter of years before nuclear waste starts to leak. Photo: Bellona Foundation
Nils Bøhmer, a nuclear physicist and chief executive of the Bellona Foundation, told Norway's Dagbladet newspaper that several ships and submarines deserted in the Barents and Kara Seas could start to leak radioactive waste within as little as ten years. 
 
“We fear what could be called a Chernobyl in slow motion, where radioactive waste seeps out into the sea.” he said.  “The Radiation Protection Authority has estimated that it may start to leak in 10 to 15 years time.” 
 
Bellona has been campaigning for action to deal with nuclear waste in neighbouring Russia since the dissolution of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, in 1994 its report "Sources of Radioactive Contamination in Murmansk and Archangel Counties" alerted the world to the risks posted by decommissioned Soviet nuclear-powered submarines. 
 
However, the breakdown in relations between Russia and the West over the crisis in Ukraine has led Russia in December to effectively cancel  the Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) Program, also known as Nunn-Lugar, under which it has worked with US Department of Defence personnel to try and keep the material safe.  
 
The Soviet Union dumped vast amounts of nuclear waste in the Barents and Kara Seas in the decades leading up to its dissolution in 1991. In total it abandoned: 19 ships containing radioactive waste; 14 with nuclear reactors, five of which contain spent nuclear fuel; 735 other pieces of radioactively contaminated heavy machinery;  17,000 containers with radioactive waste; and three nuclear submarines.
 
Of these, the three submarines pose the worst risk, with the Business Insider news site warning that K-27 could cause a Chernobyl-like event if the casings of its reactors fail and radiation leaks into the sea.  
 
The K-27 was an experimental design launched in 1962. While on duty in 1968, the reactor started leaking radiation, poisoning the crew. According to the BBC, nine seamen died of radiation poisoning immediately, while many more had their lives cut short.
 
The vessel was sunk in the Kara Sea in 1981 only 30 meters below sea level, far shallower than required by international guidelines. 

 
The greatest direct risk to Norway is posed by the K-159 submarine, which sank on a journey from the town of Ostrovnoy in Russia's Murmansk region in 2003, just 200km from the Norwegian border, giving it the potential to contaminate some of the country's most valuable fisheries. 
 
The wreck was mapped by sonar in 2010 by the British subsea surveyors Adus Deep Ocean under a now aborted project to salvage the vessel. 
 
Bøhmer says that the matter is urgent. ”I think we have a short time horizon to do something about this problem. Nuclear waste must be retrieved and stored on land where possible, or buried in the seabed before it is too late.”
 
 
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