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Policy Brief: ND Environmental Partnership as a platform for nuclear cleanup of sunken objects in the Arctic Sea

Dismantling nuclear submarines photo by Ingar Amundsen

This Policy Brief summarizes the key outcomes and recommendations from the Northern Dimension Expert Seminar: Nuclear Waste Cleanup in the Arctic (Nov. 25, 2020), which gathered together leading international experts and key stakeholders on nuclear cleanup projects.

The Northern Dimension Environmental Partnership’s Nuclear Window (NDEP NW) is an established platform for eliminating nuclear hazards inherited from the Soviet nuclear fleet operations in the Arctic. The strength of the NDEP NW projects is their operating model, where the NDEP grants administered by the EBRD act as a catalyst for local and complementary national funding, including in-kind support from the beneficiaries.

After years of terrestrial nuclear cleanup, Russia and international actors are taking the remediation of hazardous sunken objects as a strategic priority, and the recent European Commission funded feasibility study identified 17,000 sunken nuclear objects in the Arctic Sea and drafted a four-step action plan for the management of six most hazardous objects.

The Expert Seminar concluded that the nuclear cleanup of the most hazardous sunken objects should start from the lifting and dismantling of the most urgent ones: nuclear submarines K-27 and K-159, and that the NDEP NW would be a feasible platform for these projects. The learnings from the expert seminar lead to the following recommendations for future nuclear cleanup projects on sunken objects in the Arctic:

  • Recommendation 1: To encourage the Russian Federation to continue its work on establishing a legal and regulatory framework for the cleanup of sunken nuclear objects.
  • Recommendation 2: To inform international donors about how Russian legislation would enable/constrain international cooperation in the potential lifting operation.
  • Recommendation 3: To seek infrastructural and other synergies with existing NDEP funded projects and with bilateral nuclear cleanup projects.
  • Recommendation 4: To allocate sufficient complementary national funding to secure operational costs not funded by the NDEP grant.
  • Recommendation 5: To have a flexible technical and management approach in project design and implementation to account for regulatory and other uncertainties.
  • Recommendation 6: To ensure efficient knowledge sharing and collaboration between project implementing bodies and key external stakeholders.

Download the Policy Brief: ND Environmental Partnership as a platform for nuclear cleanup of sunken objects in the Arctic Sea

For more information, please contact the authors:

Dr Päivi Karhunen, Aalto University & Prof. Riitta Kosonen, Aalto University

The seminar was organized virtually on 25 Nov. 2020. The information presented in the Policy Brief is retrieved from the seminar presentations, unless otherwise indicated.

Seminar program and materials on the ND website

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