Waste, weapons and reactors: nuclear threat in Far North

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(May 12, 1991) The Norwegian environmental foundation Bellona has been collecting information on Soviet nuclear activities in the far north in the Kola Peninsula area during the last year and has revealed previously unknown information on dumping, nuclear testing and nuclear storage. Some of this information has been summarized in English and is reported below.

(352.3500) WISE Amsterdam -


According to the foundation, the Soviets have been dumping low- and intermediate-level nuclear waste in the Barents Sea, offshore of the Kola Peninsula. The dumping, says Bellona researcher Frode Haaland, continued at least until the end of 1985. The London Dumping Convention banned dumping of such waste in 1983. The ship "Sarebryanka" was used for the dumping, and has been photographed by the Norwegian military while actually engaged in the dumping.


This ship and three other outdated vessels are now used for temporary storage of low- and intermediate- level waste, mainly from the nuclear ice breaker fleet. A new deposit is about to be made in a mountain close to the Murmansk fjord.

On the east side of the Litza fjord, close to the Norwegian border, low- and intermediate-level waste from the Soviet north fleet is being stored. The high-level waste from the fleet is in long-term storage in tunnels on the Kildin Island, outside Murmansk fjord. In addition, low- and intermediate-level waste from the nuclear power plant in Polyarni Zoni, near Lake Imandra, is stored in onsite waste dumps. Fuel rods are shipped to Cheliabinsk after three years of cooling.

Nuclear Power Plant

The oldest reactors at Polyarni Zori were installed in 1973-74, and are of the same type as the now closed reactors at Greifswald. The other two reactors were commissioned in 1981 and 1984, and do not comply to western standards.

Soviet North Fleet

The Soviet fleet based on the Kola Peninsula number 117 nuclear-powered submarines, with 223 reactors. Additionally, six surface vessels have 12 reactors, bringing the total number of reactors to 235. The north fleet has some 3500 nuclear warheads. This fleet passes close to Norway when escaping into the Atlantic, which is the fleet's main working area.

The Big Threat...

This adds up to a formidable nuclear threat to the far north, a threat that is currently shaking the population of the northern regions of Norway. And in a move that brought even less reassurance, Bellona recently revealed secret information from the Norwegian Health Ministry on a planned evacuation of northern Norway in 1961 because of the excessive fallout from atmospheric nuclear testing on Novaya Zemlya.

Source: Bellona, 3 April 1991. (According to Bellona's Erode Haaland, the information given here is believed to be correct and has been cross checked by him. The information on the storage areas mentioned is partly confirmed by Soviet officials. The information on storage of fuel rods on Kildin has been confirmed by a KGB officer, and photographs give further confirmation.)

Contact: Bellona, P.B. 8874 Youngstorget, 0028 Oslo 1, Norway; tel: 02-38 24 10; fax: 02-38 38 62.
Social-Ecological Union (USSR), tel: 095-151 62 70.
"Pravitel'stvenny Vestnik" (Soviet governmental weekly news bulletin), Rybny pereulok 3, 103 012 Moscow, USSR; tel: 095- 924 28 18 (information).