French and British engineers working for firms retained by the European Union are investigating an aging Russian ship loaded with highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel to see if it constitutes a threat to the region. The ship is anchored in the northern port of Murmansk, home of Russia’s Northern Fleet. A spokeswoman for one of the firms said the situation had been designated a priority by the European Union. She speculated that Moscow had probably intended the ship to be only a temporary storage site, but that Russia had been storing the spent fuel rods on it for up to ten years. The situation could embarrass Russian leaders prior to a summit of G-7 nations planned for Moscow in April, which is to discuss nuclear security. (9)
In a related development, an investigation by the Oslo-based environmental group Bellona into environmental risks posed by the nuclear wastes of the Northern Fleet resulted in the arrest February 6 of retired Russian captain Aleksandr Nikitin on charges of espionage. The arrest led a German parliamentarian to charge that Russia had violated Nikitin’s human rights. (See Monitor, February 13)
Former Acting Procurator General Arrested on Criminal Charges.