Brussels, 9 November 2006
Proposal for a
COUNCIL DECISION concerning conclusion on behalf of the European Community of a Framework Agreement on a Multilateral Nuclear Environmental Programme in the Russian Federation and of the Protocol on Claims, Legal Proceedings and Indemnification to the Framework Agreement on a Multilateral Nuclear Environmental Programme in the Russian Federation
Historical background: The situation in NW Russia
Russia's North West region is particularly endangered by the huge amounts of spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste present there. The spent nuclear fuel (SNF) and radioactive waste in Russia originates from both past (historical waste) and present activities. The main sources are nuclear submarines. Others are civilian nuclear powered icebreakers, floating technical bases storing SNF, military and civilian nuclear research centres including reprocessing facilities and use of radionuclides in medicine, research and industry.
Two thirds of all Russian military vessels belong to the Northern Fleet. A total of 253 nuclear propelled military vessels were built during the period 1955-2001, of which 248 are submarines and the rest surface ships. About 180 of these vessels have been taken out of service, of which more than 110 are from the Northern Fleet. The vessels taken out of service from the Northern Fleet contain more than 200 nuclear reactors (most submarines have two reactors on board). Many still have SNF on board.
The submarines have been, and still are, refuelled and serviced at a number of naval bases located in bays along the Murmansk and Arkhangelsk coast. Many of these are no longer in use but still contain SNF and radioactive waste. The two former service bases containing the largest quantities of SNF and radioactive waste are at Andreeva Bay and, with smaller quantities, Gremikha Bay.
None of the naval bases has appropriate facilities for handling and storing the SNF and radioactive waste on site. There are large quantities of radioactive material at many bases. The existing stores are often full and some are already leaking radioactive material into the environment. Because the bases are located along the coast there is a significant risk of contamination of the sea.
The icebreakers in north-west Russia are operated by the Murmansk Shipping Company (MSCO), which is also responsible for refuelling and servicing them. The SNF is sent to Mayak for reprocessing and the radioactive waste is stored by MSCO.
The service ship Lepse a floating technical base with severely damaged SNF from the decommissioned icebreaker Lenin on board - is docked in Murmansk harbour. The industry initiated a clean-up project but this was discontinued, primarily due to lack of financing. The Lepse belongs to the MSCO. It was built in 1936, sunk during World War Two and later refloated and used as a storage facility for spent nuclear fuel from icebreakers until 1981. The Lepse was also used to transport radioactive waste from Atomflot to the eastern part of Novaya Zemlya, where the waste was dumped into the ocean. The Lepse holds around 640 spent fuel assemblies transferred from the reactors on the nuclear powered icebreaker Lenin that was hit by an accident in 1966. Today the radiation from the storage section of the Lepse is far above acceptable norms.
The reaction of the international community: the MNEPR Framework Agreement
Given the overall scale of the problem, it became evident in the mid-'90s that internationally concerted bilateral and multilateral action was necessary and should concentrate on the most serious nuclear safety problems, notably in the areas of treatment and storage of radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel. A Contact Expert Group (CEG) was established in 1996 under the auspices of the IAEA to co-ordinate the international aid to Russia in the field of radioactive waste management. Its main objective was to identify the domains where international funding would help to reduce the radiological risks posed by unsafe management of spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste in north-west Russia. The Commission and some of the Member States have been taking part in the CEG's work from the start.
Bilateral donors started to assist the Russian Federation with evaluating the situation and addressing the problem under a series of bilateral and multilateral framework agreements. The Commission supported a range of projects, feasibility analyses for the Gremikha and Andreeva Bay naval bases and a preliminary project on the Lepse, but there was a general understanding among the international community that only stronger and joint efforts could address the problems satisfactorily.
In response, on 5 March 1999 the participants (including Russia) at the Barents Euro-Arctic Council (BEAC) in Bodø (Norway) signed a declaration stating their intent to facilitate and broaden cooperation in the area of safety of spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste management. They launched the "Multilateral Nuclear Environmental Programme in the Russian Federation" (MNEPR) and recommended early conclusion of a Framework Agreement on the MNEPR to overcome the obstacles to project implementation. The Framework Agreement included an additional protocol on claims, legal proceedings and indemnification. The Commission played an active part in the MNEPR talks and received a negotiating mandate from the Council in April 2000.
The negotiations to conclude the Framework Agreement extended from 2000 to 2003. The final text of the Framework Agreement was signed in Stockholm in May 2003 by the European Community, the European Atomic Energy Community, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, the Russian Federation, Sweden and the United Kingdom. The USA signed the Framework Agreement, but not the Protocol. The original text was deposited at the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency in Paris and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation.
Although the MNEPR Framework Agreement could be applied on a provisional basis from the date of signature, it is subject to ratification, acceptance or approval by the Parties, as stated in Article 18 "Entry into force, duration, withdrawal and termination". All the EU Member States which have signed the Framework Agreement have now deposited their ratification instruments with the Depositories, the last one being the United Kingdom which ratified the Framework Agreement in April 2006. The European Community is now in a position to conclude the MNEPR Framework Agreement.
1) The Commission proposes that the Council adopts the attached proposal for a Decision concerning conclusion of a Framework Agreement on a Multilateral Nuclear Environmental Programme in the Russian Federation and of the Protocol on Claims, Legal Proceedings and Indemnification to the Framework Agreement on a Multilateral Nuclear Environmental Programme in the Russian Federation.