Friday, February 20, 2015

"Chernobyl in slow motion' feared in decaying Russian sub graveyard

Tom Parfitt, The Telegraph, Feb 20

A scientist in Norway has warned of a "Chernobyl in slow motion" as the result of decaying nuclear submarines off the Arctic coast of neighboring Russia. 
Nils Bøhmer, a nuclear physicist who heads the Bellona environmental group, said that ageing subs and boats dumped in the Barents and Kara Seas could begin to leak radioactive waste within a decade. 
"We fear what could be called a Chernobyl in slow motion, where radioactive waste seeps out into the sea," he told Norway's Dagbladet newspaper, according to The Local. 
Mr Bøhmer said that Norway's Radiation Protection Authority (NRPA) estimated leaks could begin, "in 10 to 15 years time". 
The NRPA says that before the USSR collapsed in 1991, Soviet authorities dumped an estimated 17,000 containers of nuclear waste, two submarines, 19 ships containing radioactive waste, 14 nuclear reactors, including five that still contain spent nuclear fuel, and 735 other pieces of radioactively contaminated heavy machinery in the Arctic Ocean. 
Most dangerous of all are two submarines – the K-159 and the K-27 – which lie on the ocean floor, the first at the entrance to Kola Bay in the Barents Sea and the second in the shallows surrounding the Novaya Zemlya archipelago, where nuclear bombs were tested during the Soviet period. 
• The women living in Chernobyl's toxic wasteland 
Bellona says the K-27 submarine was scuttled in less than 150 feet of water in the early 1980s after a reactor accident that killed nine crew on-board in 1968. Its reactors contain an estimated 200lb of uranium 235. 
The K-159 sank unexpectedly while it was under tow to a shipyard in 2003. Nine sailors on board drowned. 
The United States and Russia previously worked together to decommission and protect Soviet-era nuclear, biological, and chemical weapon stockpiles under the Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) Programme. 

That initiative – which included dismantling of submarines – was ended by Russia in December, most likely as a result of rising tensions between Moscow and Washington over the war in Ukraine.

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