The risk of a nuclear accident at the Kola Nuclear Power Plant near Murmansk and only kilometers from Norway’s border with Russian, will continue to increase until it is closed – at the earliest in 2030 when it will have operated twice as long as it was designed to.
Kola is just one nuclear power plant that Russia is letting grow old and decay while it spends the bulk of its money building nuclear power plants in other countries, a new report by Bellona has found.
Independent international experts widely consider the Kola Nuclear Power Plant to be one of the world’s most dangerous. It went into service over four decades ago, in 1973, and lacks the concrete reinforcements present in new reactor designs. This means that radioactivity could be released far easier in the event of an accident.
Although Russia makes an effort to maintain the plant, it is only becoming more worn. Most critically, the steel in its reactor vessels will become more fatigued as they continue to be exposed to radiation.
Should there be an accident at the plant, its severity is largely in the hands of the prevailing winds – which would likely focus the fallout on Murmansk’s population of 300,000, and farther to the Barents Sea. Additionally, according to wind simulation models, the country of Finnmark in northern Norway, the coastal town of Tromsø and northern Sweden would also be hit.
Despite this, there are no near-future plans to close the plant. Instead, Russia invests in continual maintenance and upgrades to Band-Aid emerging problems. Norway itself contributes money and expertise to these efforts in the hopes of delaying an incident.
“Unfortunately, this also contributes to this old nuclear plant being in operation for longer,” said Nils Bøhmer, Bellona’s general manager and nuclear physicist, who is one of the report’s co-authors. “This means that the Kola Nuclear Power Plant is an increasing safety risk for Norway.”