Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 163

The Bellona Foundation, a Norwegian-based environmental organization, last week released its long-awaited report on the hazards posed to northwestern Russia and the adjoining Arctic region by the decommissioned nuclear reactors and nuclear waste storage dumps of Russian naval forces in the area. Entitled "The Russian Northern Fleet: Sources of Radioactive Contamination," the report describes in detail the immense potential environmental hazards posed by the fleet’s nuclear legacy. It warns that international cooperation and financing are necessary to avoid a future "Chernobyl in slow motion." The report observes that some 18 percent of all the world’s nuclear reactors are located in this part of Russia, including 270 reactors in service or in storage. An additional 108 reactor cores are reportedly stored under unsafe conditions, either in land-based facilities or on storage ships and barges. The Northern Fleet is headquartered at Severomorsk (near Murmansk) on the Kola Peninsula.

The report stresses the need for openness in confronting and neutralizing the dangers posed by this potentially deadly Cold War legacy. Its authors also note with alarm that the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) hindered the completion of the report by erecting obstacles and engaging in outright intimidation. They argue that such actions violate Russia’s laws on state secrets and on the protection of information, which together prohibit the suppression of information on environmental conditions that could be harmful to the population.

The preface to the report also pleads for the release of Aleksandr Nikitin, a retired Russian naval officer who is one of the three primary authors of the Bellona document. Nikitin was arrested by the FSB in February of this year on charges of espionage for his participation in the project, and remains incarcerated. Indeed, in an action clearly timed to coincide with the release of the Bellona report, Amnesty International on August 30 officially declared Nikitin a "prisoner of conscience." A representative of the London-based organization said that it plans to launch an international campaign to bring Nikitin’s plight to the attention of world leaders. He also described the Nikitin case as a "serious test for the independence of the judiciary" in Russia. (UPI, August 30)

Armed Pro-Zavgaev Detachments Forming in Northern Chechnya.