Norway’s cooperation with Russian authorities

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Norwegian authorities’ cooperation with Russian authorities has been at centre-stage in the collaboration on nuclear safety in Russia. Norway will prioritise collaboration with Russian supervisory and administrative authorities. This will be an important contribution to developing a sustainable Russian administration in the nuclear safety field. An increased focus on preparedness, monitoring and competence development needs to be a natural part of such cooperation.

 


 

Growth of bilateral cooperation

The nuclear safety cooperation with Russia originates from the bilateral environmental collaboration between the two countries. An expert group under the Joint Norwegian-Russian Commission on Environment Protection was established in 1992 to investigate allegations that radioactive waste had been dumped in the Barents and Kara Sea. The expert group has since played a central role in investigations and studies of radioactive pollution and in the development of cooperation between authorities in the northern areas.

 

The far-reaching political changes in the former Soviet Union enabled, as early as in 1992, the establishment of bilateral cooperation between Norway and Russia in the field of nuclear safety in the northern areas. At the initiative of the Norwegian government of the time, Norway established a wide-ranging programme to improve protection against accidents at the Kola nuclear power plant. In 1993 Norway and Russia signed a bilateral agreement concerning early warning of nuclear accidents at, and exchange of information on, nuclear installations.

 

A bilateral agreement concerning cooperation on nuclear safety initiatives was signed between what was then Minatom and Norway’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 1998. The agreement established a framework for cooperation with Russia on nuclear safety and nuclear clean-up, regulated legal matters and established a Norwegian-Russian commission to ensure effective implementation of the cooperation. The agreement also regulates the right to verify that technical assistance is utilised as agreed. The agreement expired in May 2003, and a revised agreement is being negotiated. The commission, headed by the Norway’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Russia’s Federal Atomic Energy Agency, reviews the status of concrete projects and of the cooperation in general. The meetings have also been used by the Norwegian side to raise issues such as closing down the nuclear power plant on the Kola Peninsula, reprocessing of spent nuclear fuel at the Mayak Production Association  and Russia’s accession to the London Convention limiting the dumping of radioactive waste.
 

Strengthening governmental collaboration

The nuclear safety cooperation with Russia brings authorities and specialists from Russia and Western countries together. This is important in the effort to assist Russia in its further development of independent and highly qualified supervisory and administrative authorities. At the same time it is important for Russian authorities to be well prepared to oversee and supervise the clean-up process supported by international efforts. The Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority’s (NRPA’s) collaboration with Russian supervisory authorities has shown that rules can be and often need to be improved. Strengthening Russian supervisory authorities will be of major significance. Experience gained by Western countries shows that a strong and independent supervisory authority is important to ensure that concrete projects are implemented in a sound manner in environmental and safety terms. The supervisory authorities’ position is also crucial to assure sustainable administration of nuclear activities, and ensuring that western assistance will no longer be needed in the longer term.

 

In an ongoing governmental cooperation Norway is helping Russia to clarify responsibilities and to further develop legislation in the fields of radiation protection, nuclear safety and environmental protection. Wide-ranging cooperation has been initiated with various control and supervisory authorities in Russia. These include GosAtomNadzor (formerly GAN, now the Federal Technical, Atomic and Environmental Inspectorate), the Health Ministry (Medbioekstrem), the Ministry of Atomic Energy (formerly Minatom, now the Federal Directorate for Atomic Energy), the Natural Resources Ministry and the Defence Ministry (radiation protection department).

Emergency prepeardness

The bilateral agreement between Norway and Russia from 1993 concerning early warning of nuclear accidents at, and exchange of information on nuclear installations has since formed the basis for practical cooperation on nuclear accident preparedness between the two countries. The agreement is anchored in the International Energy Authority’s (IAEA) Early Warning Convention. The IAEA Convention incorporates a relatively high threshold for alerting neighbouring countries and the international community of nuclear events. Norway has therefore called for the early warning threshold to be lowered, a recommendation designed to be applicable not just to Russia, but to all other countries within the international community. A Norwegian-Russian protocol concerning strengthened cooperation on preparedness and early warning was signed in October 2003. Focus is now on ensuring that the agreement functions in the best possible manner. This work requires continuous cooperation on practical early notification routines, the early notification threshold, cooperation on excercise and regular information exchange. Closer contacts have been established between the Norwegian R adiation Protection Authority and the Federal Atomic Energy Agency  with an intention to strenghten the practical implementation of the agreement.

 

Norway considers it important to maintain and develop nuclear emergency prepeardness in correspondence with the intentions of Report no. 17 (2001-2002) to the Norwegian Parliament on the Safety and Security of Society and Report No. 39 (2003-2004) entitled Public Security and civilian-military collaboration.