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Bellona Report nr. 2:96. Written by: Thomas Nilsen, Igor Kudrik and Alexandr Nikitin.

The Russian Northern Fleet

Table of Contents

[NFL Updated] [On to introduction] [References] [Content]

Can this information be kept secret?

The Bellona Foundation has been involved in environmental questions concerning north-western Russia and the Arctic since 1989. In our work we have surveyed the environmental challenges that exist in this region. We have particularly focused on environmental challenges represented by pollution from the petroleum industry, other industrial activities and nuclear facilities. With this report The Russian Northern Fleet - Sources of Radioactive Contamination we have compiled knowledge and statistics available from open sources. By presenting this information we hope to contribute to increased insight and consequently to help realise necessary national and international measures.

The report gives a comprehensive view of the serious situation which now exists in the Northern Fleet. In fact, 18 % of the nuclear reactors existing in the World are situated in this area. The Northern Fleet has a total of 270 reactors in service or in storage. Waste from an additional 90 reactor cores are stored under unsafe conditions at Zapadnaya Litsa. Eighteen reactor cores are stored under similar conditions on board storage ships and barges. The report further describes a series of circumstances which represent dangers to human health and the environment. The situation is grave and will require comprehensive measures to bring safety levels up.

A prerequisite for international co-operation is openness. This report offers a factual basis to assist in the development of proper risk assessment, problem solving and prioritising. It is our view that such work is best carried out through international co-operation, with particular emphasis placed on a strengthening of Russian treatment technology for nuclear fuel and wastes.

We have encountered some resistance in the writing of this report. The Russian Federal Security Police (FSB) has in various ways tried to hinder its completion and to criminalise its contents. One of the authors, Bellona employee Alexandr Nikitin, is now in custody under threat of the death sentence. He is accused of acts of high treason, and it is alleged that he has sold Bellona top secret information. Parts of the background material for this report was confiscated by Russian security police during a raid on Bellona's Murmansk office. Both of these events have hindered the completion of the report. Bellona has only an ecological interest in publishing the report, which only concerns matters related to nuclear safety. Considerable effort has been made to provide comprehensive references making it clear that our sources of information have been open ones.

The report documents that without international co-operation and financing, a grave situation could arise which can be pictured as a Chernobyl in slow motion. If safety measures are not implemented, major accidents and the release of fissile material will be unavoidable. Keeping information of this nature secret constitutes a violation of the Law on State Secrets (1993) Article 7 which establishes that: "Information on the condition of the environment is not subject to classification". It further violates Article 10 of the Law on Information and Protection of Information (1995) which states: "It is prohibited to ascribe the following to materials with limited access:.. documents which contain information on extraordinary situations, environmental information and other information necessary to ensure the safe functioning of residential areas and industrial sites".

Nikitin's incarcerators are guilty of attempting to prevent information of a vital nature from becoming available to the population and official agencies. By classifying previously unclassified material and by preventing new information from emerging, the FSB threatens human health and ecological safety, both in Russia as well as in neighbouring states. For this they must be brought to account.

Nikitin must be released immediately. His imprisonment and the accusations against him are not only flagrant breaches of human rights and the rights of free speech, but also constitutes a direct hindrance to international involvement in the region. If Alexandr Nikitin is sentenced for his participation in the work on this report, then what you now hold in your hand is an official state secret. If such is to be the case the foundation for international co-operation is non-existent, since that depends on at least the minimum of information which this report represents. New serious accidents will certainly occur if information of the type included in this report is to be considered classified.

Russia and other states must now increase the availability of information regarding military nuclear waste. Permission must be given for national and international bodies to inspect nuclear waste from military sources.

Frederic Hauge,
managing director.


At the time that this report went to press, co-author Alexander Nikitin was being imprisoned because of the information that is presented here. Alexander Nikitin was arrested on February 6, 1996, by the Russian security police, FSB. He is accused of espionage and high treason against Russia for having sold top secret information to Bellona. This report shows that these charges are both false and unfounded. The information presented here has been gathered from open sources in Russia and in other countries over a number of years. The FSB campaign against Bellona is an attempt to halt the openness about environmental problems in Russia.

On October 5, 1995, FSB agents ransacked Bellona's office in Murmansk as well as the homes of several of our contact people at various locations in Russia. All of the background material we had gathered on the Russian Fleet was confiscated. None of this material has been returned, for FSB does not want international attention turned towards the threats to the environment posed by the nuclear installations of the Northern Fleet. Bellona would emphasise that free speech is the right of all democratic countries, including Russia. Openness on environmental matters is a right protected by the Russian constitution. Indeed, it is stated here that any public person attempting to conceal information about the environment shall be punished.

There is a large and justified concern over the releases of radioactivity from the Northern Fleet's many nuclear submarines and storage facilities for nuclear waste. These problems are not solved by attempting to intimidate the authors of this report, or other environmentally concerned individuals, into silence. The solution to these problems lies in a continued openness that can form the basis for a broad national and international co-operation. Therefore, the entire world has protested against the arrest of Alexander Nikitin and the FSB campaign against Bellona.

The Bellona Foundation has been working on environmental problems in northern Russia since 1989, and we recently issued the report Sources of Radioactive Contamination in Murmansk and Arkhangelsk Counties. Through our office in Murmansk, we have worked to establish contact between Russian and Western researchers and corporations. Bellona still maintains that international co-operation is important. The present report on The Russian Northern Fleet which we present here, offers a comprehensive basis on which to determine the magnitude of the problems. A lack of technical information prevents us from making any conclusive risk assessment. The solution to the nuclear-related problems in the Arctic region lies in a broad co-operation between the countries who initiated the arms race of the cold war. In the case of Russia, this solution will depend upon further political and economic developments.

The sources we have used in this report include newspapers, professional literature, research reports and public documents. We have also had a number of meetings and participated in several conferences related to the dangers of radioactive contamination emanating from the nuclear installations of the Northern Fleet. During the preparation of this report, we have taken great pains to give references for all information cited here. Accurate information contributes to a clear and result-oriented discussion. Rumours and inaccurate information cause unnecessary fear and anxieties. Therefore Bellona considers it important that also the authorities present a better overview of possible sources of radioactive contamination within the Russian Northern Fleet and other nuclear facilities. This is true not only of Russia, but also of other countries who in the post war period have withheld vital information about the dangers of radioactive contamination to public health or the environment.

We would like to thank the many people who contributed to putting together this report. First and foremost, we have benefited greatly from the counsel of our advisory group, including Nils Bøhmer, Nikolai Mormul and Vyacheslav Perovsky. Frederic Hauge, Siri Engesæth, and Knut Erik Nilsen at The Bellona Foundation have assisted in collecting and working through the material. The report developed both in Norwegian and Russian in parallel, and has also been translated into English. Our colleagues Håkon Strand, Angelika Bækken and Luba Kovalova have made a tremendous effort in translating and interpreting. Jennifer Høibråten, Christian Rostock, Audun Sandvold, John Kenneth Stigum and Bjørn Hellem have translated the report into English. Sigurd Enge, Christian Rekkedal, Simen Graff Jensen, Karl Rikard Nygaard, Runar Forseth and Per Storm-Mathisen have assisted in the processing of the material. This has made it possible to post this multilingual report on Internet ( where it can be periodically updated.

Oslo - St. Petersburg
April 5, 1996
Thomas Nilsen and Igor Kudrik

The Authors

Bilde av Thomas Thomas Nilsen (1968) is a member of the Bellona Foundation's Russian Studies group. Over the past eight years he has made extensive visits to Russia to study the environmental situation there. He is co-author of the report Sources of Radioactive Contamination in Murmansk and Arkhangelsk Counties and the working paper Reprocessing Plants in Siberia. He attended the Norwegian University of Technology and Natural Sciences and has a background in environmental journalism.

Bilde av Igor Igor Kudrik (1974) heads the Bellona Foundation's branch office in Murmansk. He has worked with several Russian environmental organizations and has spent the last two years establishing Bellona's Murmansk office. He attended the Murmansk School of Pedagogy. He specialises in the study of radioactive contamination emanating from both military and civilian sources.

Bilde av Alexandr Alexandr Nikitin (1953) has been a Bellona associate since 1994 and joined the Foundation's staff in 1995. He holds the rank of full captain and is retired from service. He was trained at the Naval College in Sevastopol and served with the Russian Northern Fleet until 1985. From 1985 until 1992, he worked at the Department of Nuclear Safety in the Ministry of Defence.

Advisory Panel

Bilde av Nils Nils Bøhmer (1967) joined the Bellona Foundation in 1993 and works as a nuclear physicist in the Russian Studies group. He is co-author of the report Sources of Radioactive Contamination in Murmansk and Arkhangelsk Counties and of the working paper Reprocessing Plants in Siberia. He holds a degree from the University of Oslo and was formerly with the National Radiation Protection Authority under whose auspices he attended an expedition to the sunken nuclear submarine Komsomolets in 1992.

Bilde av Nikolaj Nikolai Mormul (1933) is a retired rear admiral of the Russian Northern Fleet. Trained at Dzerzhinsky Military Academy, he served aboard the first Soviet nuclear submarine K-3. He later served on board several other nuclear submarines, a number of which experienced nuclear incidents. From 1978 to 1983, he was chief of the Northern Fleet Technical Department. He is co-author of the book The Nuclear Submarine Epoch, and is also a member of the United Nations Academy of Information.

Bilde av Vjatsjeslav Vyacheslav Perovsky has served in one of the Northern Fleet's technical divisions and is a trained nuclear chemist. He assisted in the cleanup efforts following the 1982 accident at a nuclear waste repository at Andreeva Bay and has contributed to the construction of the present storage facility. He has been with the Minatom Institute for Industrial Technology (VNIPIET) in St. Petersburg since the mid 1980s.

The publication of this report is sponsored by:

Main contributor


Information about the publishers

Published by:

The Bellona Foundation: ISBN 82-993138-5-6

ISSN 0806-3451



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Bellona Europa
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The Web version

Christian Rekkedal (Project manager and HTML)
Gunnar Skeid (Scripts, HTML and conversion of photos)
Simen Graff Jensen (HTML and conversion of text)

Lay-out in the printed edition

Lay-out: K R Nygaard, Bellona. Printing: a.s. Joh. Nordahls Trykkeri

Photos in the printed edition

John Berg (archive), Thorbjørn Bjørkli, Per Ståle Bugjerde, Nils Bøhmer, The Norwegian Defence, Frederic Hauge, Aleksej Klimov, Igor Kudrik, Thomas Nilsen, The Northern Fleet Museum (archive), NTB, NUPI, Andrej Pronin, Scanfoto.


Kola Peninsula, the Russian Northern Fleet, radioactive waste, radioactive contamination, nuclear submarines, nuclear accidents


Copying permitted when source is stated.
Comments to this report are welcomed.

This report is availiable in English, Russian (cp1251) and Norwegian. The chapters dealing with Zapadnaya Litsa and handling of spent nuclear fuel are also published in Japanese.

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CD-version, updated 1997-10-06

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