The neighbours from hell

When it comes to dumping radioactive waste into the sea, the Former Soviet Union was always the worst offender. For instance, effluent from the Chelyabinsk nuclear-weapons factory (later known as Mayak, see my post about it here) was chucked into the River Techa, from where it ended up in the Arctic Ocean; and between 1964 and 1986, some 7,000 tons of solid radioactive waste and 1,600 cubic meters of liquid waste were dumped into the Kara and Barents Seas from the naval base in Murmansk, which serviced the Soviet fleet. Likewise, reactors from at least 18 nuclear submarines and icebreakers were dumped in the Barents sea, and an entire nuclear sub was deliberately sunk after an accident in May 1968. Another nuclear submarine, the Komsomolets, sank in 1989, 300 miles off Norway with the loss of 42 sailors. It went down with two nuclear warheads. Jeez, it’s a wonder the arctic seals don’t glow in the dark. In fact, in 1992 the seals in the White and Barents Sea were found to be dying from blood cancer; and earlier, in 1990, six million starfish, shellfish, seals, and porpoises washed up dead on the shores of the White Sea (see here), while the area’s natural fish population migrated away, presumably to purchase some geiger counters.

To this day, one of the worst sources of radioactive pollution in the former Soviet arctic is a place called Andreeva Bay, on the Kola Peninsula. The site at Andreeva Bay stores most of the spent fuel rods from the Northern Fleet’s nuclear powered submarines, and some from nuclear powered ice breakers. Tons of nuclear waste are stored in crumbling concrete bunkers and rusting tanks and containers. The fjord that leads out to the Barents Sea is so contaminated that nothing can live in its waters.

Andreyeva Bay: How imminent is the catastrophe?

There are many other sites in the former Soviet Union that are a nuclear disaster waiting to happen (not least, Chernobyl, which is still a huge danger 25 years after the original accident) and in 2002 the G8 nations promised to give Russia $20 billion over ten years for nuclear clean-up projects ($10 billion of this was to come from the USA). Alas, most of this money has not materialised, and the UK, for example, has refused to finance a new containment building for the spent fuel at Andreeva Bay. I can’t say I blame the UK, and others, for not coming up with the money, since Russia is now an energy rich nation (and has more billionaires than any other country).

How on earth do you deal with neighbours from hell…

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