V. N. Komlev, N.I. Bichuk, V.G. Zaitsev, G.S. Melikhova, V.A. Pavlov
Kola Peninsula Geology and Mountain institute,
Committee for Natural Resources of the Murmansk Province,
Murmansk Geological Prospecting Expedition,
Central-Kola Geological Prospecting Expedition

The Murmansk, Arkhangelsk and Leningrad oblasts most pressing economic, technological and social task today is to isolate various radioactive materials from the biosphere. These materials include hard conditioned radioactive waste, spent nuclear fuel, and the radionuclide-contaminated reactor compartments of submarines, reactors and other energy-producing equipment. Meanwhile, the experience of the Atomic Energy Ministry and that of Russian and foreign regions should be taken into account, as well as economic development in the Barents region and the Russian North.

The urgency of this problem is the result of a hastily built nuclear industry the ecological hazards of which remained classified information until just recently. Now experts are scrambling both here and abroad to find solutions. This new, grave and multifaceted challenge will require the intellectual efforts of all manner of energy experts as well as substantial financial and material support.

In order to fully reclaim the polluted areas and contaminated equipment, the numerous existing landfills and floating stations along the Barents and White Sea coasts where radioactive materials have necessarily accumulated will have to be eliminated. Of greatest concern is the spent nuclear fuel in the holds of the Lepse (docked in Murmansk), in temporary storage cells in Guba Andreyeva Bay and the settlement of Gremikha, and in the disassembled reactor compartments of submarines in Saida-Guba. For the sake of the North and its coasts, potentially dangerous materials must be removed from their current storage units, many of which are deteriorating, to isolated sites that comply with international law and are under international supervision. A single centralized site for the whole region would be preferable to many small sites.

Building sites in the Northwest region were chosen after stiff competition among different organizations (Table 1). The interests of the independent investigations partially conflicted in only one region (in the northwest of Murmansk Oblast). This may make for a compromise.

Table 1. Research into the validity of different sites in Russias Northwest for the storage of nuclear waste.






Atomic Energy Ministry

Mountain Institute

Kola Peninsula


European Union

Mountain Institute; SGN, Antea, Belgatom
(of France, Belgium)

Kola Peninsula




Kola Peninsula, Arkhangelsk Oblast, Arctic islands, Karelia(?)


International Scientific-Technical Center (Moscow)

Zvyozdochka (NGO)

Kola Peninsula, Arkhangelsk oblast, Arctic islands, Karelia(?)


Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Co.

Nedra and Kolskaya Sverhglubokaya Skvazhina (State Geology Enterprises)

Area of Kola ultra-deep borehole


UNESCO (partially)

Same as above plus Geology Institute

Area of Kola ultra- deep borehole


Atomic Energy Ministry, Leningrad oblast government

Radium Institute, Projection Institute of Energy Technology

Leningrad oblast


Atomic Energy Ministry, Murmansk Steamship Line

Projection Institute of Industrial Technology

Novaya Zemlya archipelago

Experts from the Projection Institute of Energy Technology, Saint-Petersburg University, the Russian Academy of Sciences Kola Peninsula Geology and Mountain institutes, State Geology Enterprises (Nedra and Kol'skaya Sverkhglubokaya Skvazhina), Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Co., and other domestic and foreign organizations have given their opinions as to the expedience of shallow and deep sites near the Pechenga tectonic depression [1-4]. Penchengas rocks of volcanic sediment resemble those at Mayak, the site of many surface depositories and soon an underground one as well. Similar Ural rocks have been thoroughly studied by the Projection Institute of Industrial Technology. The Institute of Ore-Deposit Geology (IGEM) has positively estimated their buffer properties with respect to radionuclides [5]. And the Institute of Geosphere Dynamics (IDG) is in the process of determining whether this massive is a block. Geological data concerning the nickel-producing capacities of Ufaley, Kischtim, Muslumovsk and other intrusions near the Mayak site (for purposes of expanding the raw-materials base of Yuzhuralnikel) may contribute to a fuller and truer evaluation of both the Mayak site and Pechenga.

In the interests of a compromise, and given the problems with Siberias nuclear regions, geological formations in Norilsk (basalts, gabbro-dolerites, permafrost) could combine the best aspects of Pechenga, Novaya Zemlya and Mayak.

We have established the high hydro-insulation of rocks in Pechenga (Table 2). This fact could significantly increase the Pechenga tectonic depressions chances of becoming a large and long-term site that would be both economic and reliable [9].

Table 2. Hydraulic testing of different rocks (according to nuclear waste data from Finnish atomic
energy stations [6], Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Co. [7,8], and Murmangeolkom).

Rocks, territories

Number of boreholes

Power of the quarries studied,

Total power studied,

Filtration coefficient for quarries,
meters per 24 hours

Stripa, Sweden





Espo, Sweden

No data




Gneisses and granites,

Loviisa, Finland









Series of matert and Zhdanovskaya, Pechenga

Over 13


Over 9,400


Data has been analyzed from exploratory drilling as well as from hydro-geological, geophysical and other boreholes (hundreds of tests in all), and observations have been made down to a depth of 800 meters at Severny, a Pechenga-Nickel mine. The results show that in Pechenga rocks beginning at depths of 60 or 70 meters outside faults at the exit of wind zones there is an acute decrease of the filtration coefficient value, which is lower than 150 meters and has a stable value of 10-4 10-5 meters per twenty-four hours. In these circumstances, the ore bodies coincide with those of areas with low rock filtration values, the lowest gas appearance and general underground waters mineralization. This last factor increases the value of these underground mines as potential nuclear waste storage sites. Russia plans to make Norilsk its nickel-production priority rather than Severo Nickel and Pechenga Nickel (Murmansky Vestnik, dated 10.06.99 and 28.10.99) where the ore base has been depleted and work has become unprofitable.

The marine transportation of Norilsk raw materials to the Kola Peninsula is an important link in todays complex industrial relations within Russias nickel industry. This fact, together with the need for better support of both metallurgical and ore mining and processing, has forced Norilsk Nickel to periodically raise the question of making radical changes at Pechenga Nickel and Severo Nickel. Especially since Norilsk Nickel, too, is anticipating difficulties (see Politics, Economics, Finances, June 1998, published by the Murmansk regional Economics project and Economics and Life, No. 48, November 1999.).

Other areas of research related to the problem of nuclear waste include:

  • Evaluation of a broader range of rocks including volcano-sedimentary rocks in Pechenga, gneisses, amphibolites and crystal-base granitoids, also late-glacial and post-glacial clays;
  • Comparison of information on the Kola ultra-deep borehole (SGS-3) with the results of industrial geological prospecting and processing of rocks;
  • Determination of positive and negative reactions of radioactive waste to different isolation environments based on findings from geological formations and SGS-3, and on examples of geological conditions at the best foreign (gneisses and granitoids in Sweden and Finland) and Russian (volcanic-sedimentary rocks at Mayak, granitoids at Krasnoyarsk rock-chemical enterprise, Kembric clays near the Leningrad Atomic Energy Station) sites.

Project 408 of the International UNESCO program on geological correlation (1998-2002) anticipates that research at SGS-3 (with a depth of more than 12 km.) and other ultra-deep boreholes as well as adjacent territories will produce data concerning the Earths construction and valuable information about the potential for and risk of storing nuclear waste at great depths [2]. Project 408 participants met at a plenary conference in the northern Russian city of Apatity (1-7 September 1999) to discuss the results of various subprojects in 1998-1999.

The discussion revealed an acute shortage of experts, i.e. geologists able to guarantee the safe storage of nuclear waste deep underground and estimate the long-term effects of that waste on the environment. The conference therefore recommended creating individual or collective new subprojects (we welcome proposals from those who would like to participate) specifically devoted to Project 408s geo-ecological aspects. The Coordinator suggested involving both Russian and foreign specialists in geology and ecology (for example, from IGEM, the Radium Institute, the Institute of Experimental Physics, the Projection Institute of Industrial Technology, Russian environmental organizations, Germanys Deutsche Gesellschaft zum Bau und Betrieb von Endlagern fur Abfallstoffe mbH, Frances Antea and SGN and Belgiums Belgatom leading Western nuclear waste management firms) as well as experts from the Swedish Nuclear Fuel and Waste Management Co. (SKB) and Finlands Posiva with the technical and economic experience needed to build nuclear storage facilities under the sea bottom and underground.

Given the heightened international interest in the fate of nuclear waste [10]; the unique conditions and applied nature of the research [9]; the support of UNESCO, the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Russian Academy of Sciences; and the experience gained from Russian nuclear programs, it would be useful to discuss Project 408, problems of nuclear waste, and the validity of northwestern Murmansk Oblast as a prospective storage site.

We would recommend prompt engineering and geological research in the area under consideration together with serious financial support.

The Mountain Institute has estimated that the cost (capital investment and exploitation costs) of nuclear waste storage on the Kola Peninsula would be six or seven times less than on Novaya Zemlya.

The initial stage of building an international-standard underground waste facility on a sparsely populated island or an area of the continental Russian North would, in all likelihood, facilitate the Government and State Dumas adoption of the Atomic Energy Ministrys proposal that Russia import and store foreign nuclear waste and spent nuclear fuel. Payment for the storage of foreign nuclear waste could entirely cover the substantial cost of storing Russias own nuclear waste as well.

The project will have to pass international inspection. The problem of storing nuclear waste is unquestionably related to the safe and sustainable development of the European North. The project should be considered from various points of view. As specialists from the Radium Institute rightly suppose, Russia is not as rich as the United States and cannot afford to spend billions of dollars on projects that are then rejected by the public [12].

Major oil and gas transshipping terminals and an oil-processing plant are planned for the Barents coast of the Kola Peninsula (near Pechenga). Russian and foreign interests in this oil- and gas-rich region have prompted Norway to propose the creation of a Euro-Arctic oil industry association (EAPF). The Russian concern Lukoil now owns the Murmansk steamship line and its atomic fleet of ice-breaking ships, the only such fleet in the world. The Russian governments plan to privatize this fleet through foreign investment (Polyarnaya Pravda, 16.12.99) is highly controversial. The role of Arctic marine transport will only increase in the near future

(The North Sea Way: Stepping Into the 21st Century, conference, Oslo, November 1999). Norilsk Nickel would like to have the right (on a par with Lukoil and Gazprom) to control cargo shipping with the help of atomic surface and underwater vessels (Murmansky Vestnik, 18.11.99). Norilsk Nickel is ready to finance the completion of a new atomic icebreaker (P. Sazhinov, Murmansk television, Weekly Panorama on 4.12.99). Underground areas of Pechenga (or Norilsk) used for nuclear purposes and for the nuclear North regions could provide another base for Norilsk Nickel. At least 20% of Norilsk Nickels total investments go to non-traditional projects. The interests of Norilsk Nickels daughter company, a Kola metallurgical concern, are broader than the extraction and processing of any one raw material (Ekonomika i zhizn, No. 48, November 1999). Moreover, Pechenga Nickels new geological function could prove useful in the long term when the problem of available industrial power and manpower is solved, and it could strengthen Norilsk Nickels position.

In the most representative studies of the Kola Peninsula (Mountain Institute, 1996 2000, Table 1) Pechenga was left out. The results of a complex evaluation of other areas (TACIS Project NUCRUS R 4.10.95, Task 7, Report, November 1999) point to two problems.

Even finally selected grounds in Dalnije Zelentci, Kusreca, Schapochka and Pojakonda-Nigrozero will either significantly affect protected natural territories, or seriously damage the habitats of certain biological species. This is a result of general techno-genetic processes that accompany the building and exploitation of any large industrial project. Moreover, it has so far been impossible to decide which of these four equally suitable areas would be the best.

Pechenga, where land is cheap because it is Arctic rocky tundra and because the nature has already been damaged by Pechenga-Nickel (no additional damage would be done in future), could provide an excellent base and a definitive solution to the problem of where to build. The opinions of experts from France and Belgium will be taken into account along with new factors and incentives in Russia.

An understanding of the ties between the nuclear, oil-gas and rock-ore industries is needed in order to develop practical recommendations and sources of financing. Pechenga meets the Atomic Energy Ministrys standards in the sense that the socio-economic conditions there are favorable [4, 10, 11, 13-16].

By contrast, in Saida-Guba officials and residents in the town of Gadzhievo town are already protesting the storage of submarine reactor compartments (about 100, some with the fuel still in them) (Murmansky Vestnik, 2.12.99).

Norilsk Nickel, backed by ONEKSIM bank, and the oil-gas corporations could gain control of the most sensitive problem in Russias nuclear industry and participate in at least the organization of an atomic transport fleet. The existence of mutual economic, financial and political interests in Murmansk Oblast and Krasnoyarsk Krai will probably facilitate this (Politics, Economics, Finances, Murmansk, June 1998).

By June 2000 Great Britain will decide in which project to increase radiation and nuclear safety on the Kola Peninsula to invest the 3 million pounds promised by Foreign Minister Robin Cooke (Murmansk Vestnik, 16. 12. 99). Perhaps the best place for these investments, and domestic ones too, is Pechenga?

For help in finding information on foreign sites, our sincere thanks to Bo Gustafsson, Bjorn Dverstorp, Anita Wiberg, Pekka Anttila, Pekka Sarkka, Aimo Hautojarvi, Marianne Moe, and Helena Komleva.


1. Nilsen T., Kudrik I., Nikitin A. North fleet. Potential risk of nuclear pollution of the region // Group paper. Belluna. Oslo, 1996. P. 1-168. (In Russian)

2. Mitrofanov F.P. Project UNESCO Comparison of content, structure and physical characteristics of rocks and minerals in quarries of the Kolsky ultra-deep borehole and their homologs on the Earths surface Apatity, 1998. 25 p. (In Russian)

3. Sergeyev A.S., Komlev V.N., Bogdanov R.V. Estimation of geological formations in north-western Russia region as an environment for underground storage of nuclear waste // Group paper at the Radioactive Security conference, 9-12 November 1999. St. Petersburg, 1999. P. 88-91. (In Russian)

4. Komlev V.N. Responsibility of generations and selection of places for underground storage of potentially super-dangerous materials // Living Arctic. 1999. No 1(11). P. 34-43. (In Russian)

5. Lisicin A.K., Sisoev A.N., Ganina N.I., et al. Buffer geo-chemical peculiarities of the geological environment // Lab and technical mineral research. Sirja. Vip. 4. Geoinformmark, 1999. 73 p. (In Russian.)

6. Anttila P. Engineering Geological Conditions of the Loviisa Power Plant Area Relating YJT-88-11, Imatran Voima Oy, Finland, December 1988. P. 1-132.

7. Olsson O., Black J., Gale J. et al. Site Characterization and Validation Project-Final Report // Stripa Project, Technical Report 92-22, SKB, Sweden, April 1992. P. 1-38.

8. Rhen I., Bdckbom G., Gustafson G. et al. Dsrc HRL Geo-scientific Evaluation 1997/2. Results from Pre-investigations and Detailed Site Characterization. Summary Report // Technical Report 97-03, SKB, Sweden, May 1997. 267 p.

9. Khakhaev B.N., Pevzner L.A., Gorbachev V.I. et al. Characterization of crystalline rocks in deep boreholes // Technical Report 92-39, SKB, Sweden, December 1992. 115 p.

10. Komlev V.N. Burying Nuclear Waste in Northwestern Russia // Security Dialogue. 1999. Vol. 30. No 3. P. 383-384.

11. Komlev V.N. Native Nuclear Programmes, Generations Responsibility, Regional Geological Experience and Site Selection for Underground Disposal of Potentially Super-Dangerous Materials // Industrial Minerals: Deposits and New Developments in Fennoscandia. Petrozavodsk, 1999. P. 150-153.

12. Anderson E.B. Introductory word // Coll. materials of 3rd conf. The Fate of Spent Nuclear Fuel: Problems and Reality. Krasnoyarsk, 1996. P. 15. (In Russian)

13. Komlev V.N. Nuclear and oil-gas spheres in Russia // Coll. Materials of conf. Ecological risk: analysis, evaluation, prognosis. Irkutsk, 1998. P. 33-34. (In Russian)

14. Komlev V.N. The need to adapt the north oil-gas experience to a new problem // Coll. Materials of conf. Energy: Ecology, Reliability, Safety. Tomsk, 1998. P. 151. (In Russian)

15. Komlev V.N. Factor of starting conditions in selection of nuclear materials underground storage // Ibid. P. 152. (In Russian)

16. Komlev V.N. The mineral-technological base of industrial waste storage // Ural promishlennij, Ural atomnij. Paper. 6th International symp. 22-24 sent. 1998. Ekaterinburg, 1998. P. 95-98. (In Russian)



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