Action Plan for Nuclear Safety
It is important for Norway to ensure that nuclear plants are operated, and radioactive substances handled, in keeping with the highest international standards, and that nuclear materials are properly protected and do not go astray. Norways support to Russia is helping to reinforce control and supervision with a view to improving the safety of waste storage facilities and nuclear installations and to reducing the risk of future accidents, emissions and radioactive contamination. Norway also wants to contribute to competence transfers that will put Russia in a position to deal with these challenges itself using the best available knowledge and technology, and to contribute to a society that will address these types of problem safely and properly in the future. This requires studies to be made and the establishment of holistic, cost-effective solutions capable of attracting international support where Russian authorities take on the responsibility of ensuring that this is done in the best possible manner. Norway is seeking to achieve the broadest possible international engagement in this effort, and to spread knowledge of the problems and of what is being done to resolve them. Indeed, awareness of nuclear problems and interest in resolving them has risen appreciably. This has resulted in an extensive international body of rules and guidelines for nuclear activities.
It took the disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in 1986 to bring home the gravity of the environmental threat from the east. The accident laid the basis for increased concrete and wide-ranging collaboration. Nuclear safety cooperation with Russia derives from the bilateral environmental cooperation that was established with the Soviet Union in 1988. Norway and the Soviet Union signed an agreement on early warning of nuclear accidents and exchange of information on nuclear installations. Norway also collaborated with Russia, Belarus and Ukraine on measures to reduce the impact of the Chernobyl accident on adjacent areas. From the early 1990s onwards, nuclear safety has been a priority area for Norwegian and Russian authorities. In 1993 funds were earmarked for safety improvements at the Kola nuclear power plant. In the spring of 1994 the Government presented Report No. 34 (1993-94) to the Storting entitled Nuclear Activities and Chemical Weapons in Areas Adjacent to Our Northern Borders. This report set the stage for the establishment of the Governments Action Plan for Nuclear Safety which was thereafter elaborated in close cooperation between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of the Environment, Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Health and Social Affairs, Ministry of Fisheries and the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority (NRPA). The action plan was initiated in 1995 and revised in 1997, and is the basis for nuclear safety collaboration with Russia. In 2005 a new action plan was established in order to replace the plan from 1997. Report no. 30 (2004-2005) to the Norwegian parliament entitled " Possibilities and challenges in the north" provides an updated basis for new guidance for the collaboration concerning nuclear management and safety in northern areas.
Overarching areas ahead
Integrated planning: International involvement in the nuclear safety sphere in Northwest Russia will increase markedly in the years ahead. Projects will grow in number, and many will be large-scale and potentially hazardous. Precise planning and carefully selected priorities will be at a premium in this situation, and an overarching, integrated plan will be absolutely crucial to the success of the efforts to resolve the challenges faced. This is a matter of broad international agreement.
International cooperation: Nuclear safety issues are an extensive field in which strong international involvement is needed in order to achieve concrete results. That is why Norway attaches importance to close, frequent contact with Russia, the USA, Canada and the EU in matters related to the northern areas. These contacts will be intensified in the period ahead. International cooperation can increase the opportunities for financing projects that are otherwise too large for individual countries to contemplate. Sound coordination means that projects are implemented with the same high requirements in terms of environment, health and safety regardless of which country or institution is responsible. To pre-empt poor coordination, responsibility for assigning priorities and for coordinating the international effort must rest with the Russian authorities. At the same time, the various actors need to harmonise their own efforts with the activities of other countries in order to assure synergies and effective resource use.
Rules: Russias rules in the fields of radiation protection, nuclear safety and
environmental protection largely follow the same standards and norms as the corresponding rules in Norway and other Western countries. However, administrative responsibilities are distributed across a large number of bodies, and the legislation is more complex than in Norway. Governmental cooperation is in progress, in which Norway is assisting Russia in clarifying responsibilities and in further developing legislation in the field of radiation protection.
Impact assessments: The Norwegian authorities consider it highly important to carry out impact assessments of initiatives included in the action plan with a view to reducing the likelihood of accidents and adverse effects on health, environment and safety. These assessments are two-tiered overarching assessments in a priority-setting phase and assessments of the individual projects.
Focal areas: Norways focus will be on the handling and storage of radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel in Northwest Russia ahead. Priority areas are scrapping of submarines, rehabilitation of facilities in Andreyev Bay and removal of radioactive sources from Russian lighthouses.
(Photo: Ragnar Våga Pedersen / Svanhovd Environmental Centre)