A serious accident at a nuclear power plant could cause acute damage to health in the immediate vicinity and long-term consequences a great distance from the power plant. Russian nuclear power plants represent the greatest risk of the spread of radioactive contamination to Norway. Norway has therefore contributed with the financing of safety measures at the Kola and Leningrad nuclear power plants, so as to reduce the risk of accidents that could have consequences beyond national borders.
There has been good Nordic collaboration on safety concerning the nuclear power plants in North West Russia. This has contributed to good coordination of the work and effective utilisation of resources.
There has been a significant reduction in the number of safety-related incidents at the plants in recent years. For example, the number of incidents at Kola nuclear power plants fell from 41 in 1993 to 4 in 2014, while the seriousness of the incidents also became lower. The risk of core melt-down at the nuclear power plant was about 100 times greater in the early 1990s than it is today.
Norway does not finance safety measures that could lead to an extension of the reactors’ lifetime. Many of the Norwegian projects at the Kola and Leningrad power plants are linked to the maintenance and upgrade of the equipment that has been delivered. More recently, Norway has prioritised collaboration on preparations for decommissioning old reactors. The funding from Norway, Sweden and Finland represents only a small proportion of the funds that the Russians themselves are using on safety measures.
Kola nuclear power plant is located on the Kola Peninsula, 235 km from Norway. There are four reactors in operation, the first of which was commissioned in 1973. All four are so-called VVER* reactors, each of 440 MW. The planned lifetime of these reactors was originally 30 years, but in 2003 it was extended by 15 years. It is now planned to shut down the oldest reactor in 2018.
Leningrad nuclear power plant is located outside St. Petersburg. There are four reactors in operation, the first of which was commissioned in 1973. All four are RBMK** reactors, with each reactor at 1,000 MW. It is planned to close the oldest reactor in 2018. In 2008 and 2009 construction of two new, VVER type reactors was started close to the existing reactors. Even though these are of the same type as at Kola, safety has been considerably improved and will be at the same level as modern western reactors.
*) VVER is a version of the pressurised water reactor.
**) RBMK can be classified as a graphite-moderated, light water-cooled reactor type.