Simultaneously as Russia deploys several new multi-billion nuclear submarines near its Arctic border to the west, Norway is analyzing how to upgrade the shipping lane inside territorial waters outside the coast of the Kola Peninsula.
The aim of the project is to improve sea safety for transport of spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste from Andreeva bay in the west, via the Saida bay to Atomflot base in Murmansk. This is the very same coastline where all of the Russian Northern fleet’s nuclear powered submarines are based, from Litsa to Severomorsk.
Norway’s Foreign Ministry granted the first NOK 200,000 (€27,300) to this project in May this year. The money comes via the long-lasting Norwegian grant program for improvements of nuclear safety in Russia.
Ole Harbitz is director of the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authorities (NRPA) and in charge of evaluating new project support to Russia.
“Safety, risk- and environmental impact assessment is essential in new projects financed through the Action Plan for Nuclear Safety. Regarding the Andreeva bay all activities are aimed at safe removal of spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste,” says Ole Harbitz to BarentsObserver.
The plan is to ship away some 21,000 spent nuclear fuel elements that today are stored in bad condition at the storage in Andreeva bay. The spent fuel comes from the reactors of Soviet subs and were placed there in the 70ies and 80ies.
“It is our assessment that efforts related to a safe shipping lane between Andreeva Bay and Murmansk is an important contribution to the safety of the entire operation,” says Ole Harbitz.
Across the Litsa fjord from Andreeva bay is the Russian Northern fleet’s westernmost naval base. Nuclear submarines are sailing in and out of the fjord where Norway wants to pay for upgrading the safety standards for shipping.
The first grant was given to the County Administrator of Finnmark, which again has sub-contracted a regional branch of the Norwegian Coastal Administration to compose the study. This is done in cooperation with Russian navigation authorities.
Per-Einar Fiskebeck at the County Administrator’s office in Vadsø, northern Norway, has for years cooperated with Russia on nuclear safety projects.
“The shipping lane is the first to be analyzed in regards to necessary upgrade of existing lanterns and beacons. This analysis will also examine needs for pilot services, emergency harbor, weather conditions before voyages, communication, charts, onboard equipment etc.,” says Per Einar Fiskebeck to BarentsObserver.
He says the first analysis will be ready before Christmas. A project description, a pilot project and a tender will then follow.
The waters from the Litsa fjord towards Murmansk shipping lane is used by nuclear powered submarines sailing in and out from their homeports to the Barents Sea. Such submarine patrols have increased in recent years. And more submarines are to be deployed at the naval bases along the route.
The Russian submarine fleet has bases in the Litsa bay, Ara bay, Vidyaevo and Gadzievo. Submarines are also frequent visitors in Olenya bay, Aleksandrovsk, Severomorsk and Roslyakovo. All these locations is along the route from Andreeva bay to Atomflot in Murmansk.