Russia Revisits Cold War Era Nuclear Waste Dumps in the Arctic

From Alaska Dispatch

As plans for offshore drilling in Russia’s Arctic materialize, the nation is revisiting Cold War-era nuclear test sites to survey potential radiation hazards around areas of oil and gas exploration, the BBC reports.

Exxon Mobil and Russia’s energy giant Rosneft have already begun exploration in the remote Kara Sea, with seismic tests completed and the drilling of exploratory wells expected next year. But besides the 21.5 billion tons of fossil fuel reserves estimated to lie beneath the ocean floor, the sea also contains a huge quantity of nuclear waste dumped decades ago by the Soviet military.

In 1981, the ill-fated Soviet K-27 submarine was sunk in the Kara Sea following a nuclear leak from its experimental liquid-coolant nuclear engine. While officials say there is no radiation leak from the vessel so far, highly-enriched uranium in its reactors remains a potential time bomb for a nuclear accident. This year Russian officials are looking at whether the vessel can be lifted from the sea floor so that its uranium can be safely removed.

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