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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 May, 2003, 12:34 GMT 13:34 UK
Clean-up on Russian nuclear subs
Russian Oscar II class nuclear submarine
There are thought to be 100 rusting submarines in Kola Peninsula

Nuclear waste from Russia's dismantled nuclear submarine fleet is to be cleaned up in an agreement reached among European countries.

The submarine fleet has lain rusting in the north-west of Russia - 40km from the Norwegian border - ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

It has taken 10 years of talks to reach the 'historic' agreement, which is aimed at removing the environmental threat to the Barents region.

The foreign ministers of Russia, Sweden and France signed the accord at a ceremony in Stockholm.

Sweden, along with others in the Barents region, had already pledged some $72m to clean up the nuclear waste, mainly comprising spent nuclear fuel.

But disagreements over custom duties on equipment needed for the job held the money back.

Clean-up projects should now be able to get under way immediately following Wednesday's agreement.

Future accords

But the BBC's Lars Bevanger says analysts warn the region needs 10 times the amount of money pledged before it can be declared safe from nuclear environmental damage.

The hope now is that donors will pledge more money when they see real results from the environmental projects expected to start soon, our correspondent said.

Igor Ivanov
Igor Ivanov hailed a new stage in decommissioning

It is thought there are around 100 Russian submarines carrying 300 nuclear reactors and some 8,000 nuclear fuel assemblies rusting in the fjords of Kola Peninsula.

Sweden's Foreign Minister, Anna Lindh, described the signing of the agreement as an "historic event, which makes us able to prevent future environmental disasters".

She also said it would help to keep any nuclear waste out of the hands of terrorists.

Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said the accord opened "a new stage" in joint efforts to resolve the decommissioning of the laid-up nuclear fleet in north-west Russia.

Russia planned to sign similar agreements with Germany, Italy, Canada and Japan, Russia's Itar-Tass news agency quoted the minister as saying.

EU tackles Russian pollution
09 Jul 02  |  Europe

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