The three storage tanks contain more than 32 tons of radioactive material. But the Kola Peninsula is littered with relics of Soviet nuclear facilities, housing more than 100 tons of nuclear waste - the largest concentration in the world.
Experts predict that a major explosion at Andreeva Bay could destroy all life in a 32-mile radius, including Murmansk and a sliver of Norway, whose border is only 28 miles away. But a much wider area of Norway, north-west Russia and Finland would be rendered uninhabitable for at least 20 years, and huge quantities of radioactive material would be dumped into the Barents Sea.
"In the best case a small, limited explosion in just one of the stored rods could lead to radioactive contamination in a 5km radius," Aleksandr Nikitin, a Russian former submarine officer and nuclear safety inspector turned environmental activist, told the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten. "In the worst case, such a single explosion could cause the entire tank facility to explode. We have no calculations for what that could lead to."
Mr Nikitin, whose work for Bellona led to continuing treason charges in Russia, added: "We are sitting on a powder keg with a burning fuse, and we can only guess about the length of the fuse." Nils Bohmer, nuclear physicist and head of Bellona's Russian division, told the newspaper: "It will at least, at a careful estimate, hit northern Europe. There are enormous amounts of radioactivity stored in these tanks."
Other activists have voiced concern about the security of stored nuclear waste in the Kola Peninsula, amid reports that some is left outside in barrels, protected by only a link fence and a couple of guards. Washington-based GlobalSecurity.org reported that in 1993 about 1.8kg of enriched uranium was stolen from the Andreeva Guba fuel storage area. Although the material was quickly recovered, the fact that some of the uranium is enriched to between 30 and 40 per cent, much higher than the 2 to 3 per cent used in civil nuclear reactors, could make it tempting to terrorists seeking to make a "dirty bomb".
Apart from the decay at the Andreeva Bay facility, said Ben Ayliffe, senior climate and energy campaigner at Greenpeace UK, "security is so lax that almost anyone who wants to can just walk in. It's like Homer Simpson meets Dad's Army."
As the 1986 Chernobyl disaster showed, drifting atmospheric radiation can contaminate crops and water supplies more than 1,000 miles from the site of the explosion. In the world's worst civilian nuclear incident, the four explosions that ripped through the power plant in what is now eastern Ukraine resulted in the dispersal of a radioactive cloud containing at least 100 times as much radiation as was released by the combined effect of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Although only three people were killed by the Chernobyl blast, it has been estimated that around 100,000 people have since died from cancers caused by exposure to radiation, with thyroid cancers increasing by 88.5 per cent. A further 300,000 people have developed non-fatal tumours even though half a million people were evacuated immediately after the accident.
The economic and social effects remain devastating, despite large-scale international assistance. Many industries have collapsed, and 1.4 million acres of prime agricultural land and forest destroyed by the explosion are still unusable. Residents are banned from entering a zone some 20 miles around the site, yet hundreds of elderly people have ignored government restrictions and gone back to their homes in surrounding villages, where they raise animals and eat fruits and berries from the radiation-soaked land.
But experts using the Chernobyl "radioactive release" to predict the likely effects of a disaster on the Kola Peninsula point out that Britain and the rest of Europe escaped remarkably lightly. The 1986 explosion occurred on a still summer night sending radioactive particles straight upwards for the most part, until they encountered winds in the upper atmosphere.
Although the radiation was widely dispersed, there was little rainfall in the immediate area, or across Europe, in the following week. The only area of Britain where rain brought the radiation to earth is relatively lightly populated: north Wales, parts of Cumbria and south-western Scotland. Care still has to be taken with meat from the affected area, but there are no reliable statistics that show any impact on human health in Britain.
Another Chernobyl-type meltdown, this time in the Arctic, could have much more far-reaching effects. The worst case would be widespread fallout caused by rain in a densely populated area, causing untold social and economic disruption beyond the threat to life.
Even without a catastrophic explosion, contamination from the Kola Peninsula facility is spreading. The region is outstandingly beautiful, with jutting cliffs, snow-covered peaks and deep fjords. The soil is rich in minerals, the rivers swim with Atlantic salmon, and the land is home to reindeer and their nomadic Saami herders. But Andreeva Bay is already devoid of marine life, and much of the area around it, a landscape of rusting submarine hulks, cranes, workshops and a disused power station, now stands empty.
A rupture or fire in the storage tanks would spread radiation further, probably forcing the evacuation of the nearest town, Zaozersk, which is less than four miles away. But Andreeva Bay is merely one of five naval bases on the Kola Peninsula, a testament to the era when the Soviet Union vied for supremacy with the US and nuclear capability, both in weapons and energy, was seen as the means to that end.
The ice-free harbours of the White Sea have always been the base of the Northern Fleet, which has two-thirds of the navy's nuclear-powered vessels. Its submarines, which can circle the globe without surfacing or refuelling, were a source of pride in superpower days. But with this came an attitude of careless arrogance towards the environment - apart from the effects on land, many spent nuclear fuel rods were dumped into the Kola and Barents seas - and the region is now paying the price.
In the economic crisis that followed the collapse of communism and the breakup of the Soviet Union, the nuclear submarine fleet and its support structure were hit by drastic cutbacks. The decommissioning of submarines rapidly became a major national problem, with suitable storage facilities filled to capacity and little money to carry out the necessary expansion.
The fuel rods at Andreeva Bay first began to leak radioactive material in 1982, when they were stored in flimsy navy warehouses. In a precursor of the emergency action taken at Chernobyl, a startled government hastily erected three massive concrete tanks filled with metal pipes in which the rods could be safely stored. These facilities were intended only as a provisional measure, to last no more than five years, yet they have now been housing potentially lethal uranium for more than two decades. The problem has been compounded by confusion over who is directly responsible for the area: the nuclear agency Rosatom, which controls all Russian nuclear sites, or the defence ministry, which has authority over military bases.
President Putin's administration denied Norwegian claims that the tanks at Andreeva Bay were unstable, claiming that the nuclear waste posed no environmental hazard. This was echoed by Rosatom's deputy head, Andrei Malyshev, who declared that "the possibility of a nuclear event that is significant in terms of safety is excluded".
Mindful, however, that the Soviet authorities sought to deny there had been an accident at Chernobyl, Russia's neighbours have been pressing for action to tackle contamination in the Kola Peninsula for years. In the 1990s European leaders began efforts to help secure the region. A 2003 agreement between Sweden, France and Russia pledged more than £30m, a deal described by the Swedish Foreign Minister as "a historic event". But little has happened since, partly due to the enormous costs.
It is estimated that a clean-up of the Kola Peninsula, either by moving radioactive material to permanent storage facilities or transporting it to a reprocessing plant, will cost around £2.2bn. Although Britain, the EU and the US have offered help, with Norway saying last month that it would pay to decommission two nuclear submarines, Russia will still end up footing most of the bill. It also faces the hazardous task of shifting the waste to where it can be dealt with, making Britain's problems in handling waste from old, and possibly new, nuclear plants seem minor.
After the radioactive material has been extracted from the dumps by remote-controlled vehicles, it will have to be transported in sealed containers down the coast to Murmansk, where the government hopes to construct new long-term storage facilities. Material which can be reprocessed will be carried in trains hundreds of miles to Mayak, in the heart of the Ural mountains. The residents of the city, who face the prospect of having tons of highly dangerous material passing through for several years, formally learned of the proposals only last autumn.
The latest controversy shows, however, that doing nothing is no longer an option. Mr Ayliffe said: "The Andreeva Bay nuclear dump is incredibly dangerous... a disaster waiting to happen that underlines the intractable problem of how to deal with the thousands of tons of highly toxic waste created by nuclear power."
Danger Zone: What will happen if there is an explosion
Best scenario: a limited explosion of one rod could contaminate a three-mile radius around Andreeva Bay. Wildlife could die out. Worst scenario: the entire facility explodes, radiation could destroy life in a 32-mile radius and make areas of Norway, Finland and Russia uninhabitable. Contamination could reach the UK and beyond.
The threat within the tanks
7,000 nuclear fuel rods are stored in each tank. Each rod hangs separately, encased in a metal tube to prevent any uncontrolled reaction.
Seawater enters through cracks in the tank and erodes the rods, causing them to fall into the salt water that has collected in the tube.
Hydrogen is released when the rods corrode. A spark from another falling rod could ignite this highly explosive gas, setting off an "uncontrolled explosion".
Dirty bombs: the terror threat posed by nuclear materials
Unlike a nuclear bomb, which requires costly precision engineering, the construction of a "dirty bomb" requires only the combination of radioactive material with a standard explosive, which serves to scatter the particles.
Few people might be killed in the explosion, but the disruption caused by contamination in a city centre would be huge. Authorities in several countries claim to have foiled such plots by terrorists.
In 1995 Russian police said they had prevented Chechen separatists from detonating radioactive isotopes wrapped in explosives in a Moscow park. Londoner Dhiren Barot, jailed in 2004 for planning to detonate dirty bombs in underground car parks in London and New York, sought radioactive material from hospital equipment such as X-ray machines.
Further reading: 'The Russian Northern Fleet: Sources of Radioactive Contamination', by Nilsen, Kudrick and Nikitin (Bellona)
13 Jun 2007 @ 15:38 by : Ha!
Of course no one is interested in this. It smacks of urgency and something real. And we gotta push the Green agenda and the hoax of global warming and the...
Who wants to know about real time decaying nuclear waste dumps let alone do anything about it? So when this dump blows we'll blame it on Iran and every body can get stoned then.
Yeah... Nigerian Homos touting their Nigerian agendas bring much more press than hot waste that could blow at any moment. Hey what they don't know will kill them. What me worry, eh?
Alfred E Neumann is in the White House and everything is under control. Mommas watchin Rachel Ray and nothin's gonna happen to us...it's all peaches and cream and Amerika the beautiful.
13 Jun 2007 @ 16:34 by swanny : Actually
Actually it doesn't surprise me...
The modern society attitude to waste is
out of sight out of mind...
so whats new...
where do we think the waste on a round finite planet goes.
What were we thinking...
not in my back yard
but unfortuneately on a finite planet.....
its everyones back yard
14 Jun 2007 @ 02:48 by : One little spark...
is all it will take and...KABOOM! Clouds of radiation hanging over london like smog and lots of cancer drugs will be sold and lots of people will meet Agenda 21 for the first time and...
The US Army has also been recently found to have been dumping lots and lots of nuclear waste in our oceans! I mean like does this also implicate the Navy? You bet, and the Air Force, Marines, etc., but...who cares, eh? Let the dead children deal with it when it comes their time.
Oh, it has all happened before and civilization, if that's what you want to call this madness of humans, went underground for long periods of time. Hence, many underground cities have been constructed for...the ELITE! Hahahahahahahaha
And Nero fiddled, or jacked off, whilst Rome burnt. So? I'd say that makes him my hero. Good riddance to Rome and Roman culture. But hasn't it resurrected it's old ugly hydra heads right here in Amerika? Thanks ed...
14 Jun 2007 @ 11:45 by ashanti : Underground
Indeed...thanks very much for the data. Absolutely amazing.
14 Jun 2007 @ 13:26 by : Yes...
it certainly is in lieu of all the buildup of nuclear arms and saber rattling over Iran. This worlds so called leaders are totally insane! Absolutely insane. But we knew that, didn't we. I don't think it took Hubs revelations to fill us in on those fronts.
And the well educated idiots go on reading their papers, having children, getting 'married.' And the end will come swiftly while they all sleep...
And, no, Greenpeace won't save us nor will some mythical God or Goddess, Angel or fleet of Arcangels. Teegeeack is doomed.
19 Jun 2007 @ 01:59 by : Hmm.
JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Isaac Newton, one of the most influential scientists of all times, foretold the end of the world by 2060, according to mansucripts by the famous physicist on display since this Sunday at Jerusalem's Hebrew University.
These manuscripts have been on public disply for the first time since 1969 within the framework of an exhibit entitled "Newton's Secrets", according to a university press release.
In a letter dated 1704, Isaac Newton, the British physicist and astronomer interested in theology and alchemy, made a calculation based on the biblical Book of Daniel. According to Newton, 1260 years had to elapse between the re-establishment of the Holy Roman Empire by Charlemagne in 800 A.D. and the end of times.
The National Library of the Hebrew University inherited a number of manuscripts by the scientist, who lived from 1642 to 1727, and who is better known for his rational discoveries concerning the Earth's gravity.
Translation (c) 2007 Scott Corrales - IHU
27 Jun 2007 @ 06:37 by : Thanks...
bushman but I think his world has already been destroyed and we are...existing...in a megafictoverse created by Higgs boson. Mu?
28 Jun 2007 @ 00:04 by : Not really,
its a matter of interpitation of older info that might be seen as fiction, like the 7th fall of Rome hasn't happened yet, well not totaly, lol. Right now, we are seeing a record of the end times, being in the now, we are witness to it. Being shown what we did and what happened, in real time, in a form we can understand. Yet the zero hour aproches fast, as a thief in the night. And onto the resurfacing/relayering of the planet. A time when the planet/solar system is in a warming cycle and all the ice is gone again, no science needed if your ancestors recorded this cycle, its still interpitation of why people once bowed to the Sun god. The info is far older than we can fathom, but my guess is these stories are at least 2 billion years old, and I have to respect that the Mayan calendar is entirly correct being its accurate to the past by 2 billion years of sequental iceages, seems all yin and yan, black and white, hot and cold. This dosnt take a scientist either, some guy looking for food will probably find the nuke dumps, and it will become sort of funky shrine that people of a latter time will find again and think that radio activity is gods wrath apon them. lol. :}
1 Jul 2007 @ 08:10 by : Yeah...
the nuke dumps way up North slowly cascading world space time into crunch day...and easily accessible. Kind of like the 'glitch' in the matrix. Deja Vieux. The Pilot used to say that every seven years 'they (controllers of the planetoverse)' reboot the planetary system. All outside the mudball is ... memory. Fantastic thoughts these. Each one of us projecting our own views in an over all amalgam of views. A real composite view! Earth Brain.
2 Jul 2007 @ 21:51 by : Oui
It kinda looks like a blue bubble there in space. Fragile in her aloneness far from the Sun. Huge flares and rays, affect the warming and the cooling to be. Wish to change it. Wish to overcome it. So wise to be yet this is it. Some of us will get off. Some elite will stay. Jesus will be high and that's probably the only way to fly. Better take your power now and use it! Unity and harmony creates a vibration that supercedes survival. Don't fear groups.
Transcend, enlighten, be.
2 Jul 2007 @ 22:08 by : Right on!
Thanks, b, for that little bit of 'poetry.' Very inspiring. Aye, aye! ;)
28 Aug 2007 @ 21:26 by dan1 : Nuclear Science Has No Right to Be Here
Nuclear Power might well be the most horrible turning of the Human Species...closely followed by chemical and biological weaponry. We desperately need to stop the production of all nuclear products on Earth. Then we need to ship the products that have been made out into a Sun for destruction.
e are not dead yet, but we must stop this insanity. Nuclear Science must be outlawed on this Our World! Nuclear power and its by products are just too nasty to be worthy of a place here with us! All this in the name of self-defence and profit.
First we build a People's Government that understands the danger and more importantly, cares enough to do something about it. Then we shut down the reactors, all over Our Planet, once and for all and start building the rockets to take the evil offal to the sun for incineration. (I dont know, but I dont think this procedure will have any negative impact on Our Star.)
Then fill the sky with watch dog satellites that will seek any sign of radiation on Earth. Where it is found it will be rooted out and its producers severly dealt with!
I dont believe we are already dead and that "Global Warming" is a hoax.
Respectfully Submitted, DAN 1
29 Aug 2007 @ 00:35 by : Dan1...
There is a safer and cleaner way. There is a way to do all that without dumping the nuclear waste into 'lake Superior,' like the US Army did during the fifties and sixties, chickens coming home now to roost, or dumping this stuff into the sun. Please, if you get the time, examine, and even write to Colonel Tom, http://www.cheniere.org/ 91/2 minutes to erasure of threat. The major problems today all stem from 'money.' You've heard the old adage 'Follow the money trail?'
Oh, it's a six thousand year old tale beginning in Ancient Sumeria and quite possibly ending there. ;) Thanks for your comments.