Russia and Norway assess Arctic nuclear waste dump site

In the autumn of 2012, a joint Russian-Norwegian expedition to the Kara Sea investigated an area where radioactive waste had been previously dumped. According to the Russian authorities a range of dumped materials can be found in Arctic seas, including nuclear-powered submarines, reactor compartments and more than 17000 containers of radioactive waste.

The joint Russian-Norwegian expedition focussed its efforts on Stepovogo Bay on the east coast of Novaya Zemlya where the nuclear powered submarine K-27 containing two reactors with spent uranium fuel was dumped, as well as some 2000 containers of radioactive waste. The condition of the K-27 and some of the dumped containers were inspected using a remotely operated vehicle (ROV), while the collection of seawater, sediment and biota samples will be used to determine the radiological status of the marine environment.

Preliminary measurements on surface sediments and water samples showed that the level of caesium-137 (137Cs) contamination was generally low. However, slightly enhanced levels of 137Cs were detected in bottom seawater and sediment collected in the area with dumped containers. Measurements taken around K-27 reveal that no leakage has occurred from the submarine.

A similar picture for the level of radioactive contamination in Stepovogo Bay was observed in the first joint Russian-Norwegian expedition in 1993-94. A final report based on the findings of the 2012 joint Russian- Norwegian expedition will be published by the end of 2013. An important task for future work will be to carry out environmental assessments of different potential remediation options for the various dumped materials.

Source: OSPAR November 2012 Newsletter, item by Dr. Justin Gwynn,

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