At the Svanhovd Ecological Center in Kirkenes today, the State Secretary of the Ministry of Defence, Øystein Singsaas opened the Steering Group meeting of the Arctic Military Environmental Cooperation Progam between Russia, the United States and Norway. The meeting is focused on specific activities relating to the handling of radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel from decommisioned Russian nuclear submarines.
In 1996, in order to resolve problems associated with environmental contamination resulting from military activities in the northern regions, military agencies from the US, Russia and Norway began the trilateral AMEC Program. Nearly 10 projects are under way with the objective being the handling of radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel from decommisioned Russian nuclear submarines.
Within the framework of the AMEC Program other non-radiological ecological projects have also been started. The possibility of launching other new projects is also being studied. The projects are led by the ministries of defense of the three countries.
In his speech, State Secretary Singsaas gave a positive evaluation to the cooperation- "The AMEC Program allows Russia to be involved in international cooperation in safeguarding the environment, and at the same time provides US political and financial involvement in cooperation on issues of nuclear safety in Northwest Russia. It's extremely positive that environmental cooperation has become an integral part of military cooperation between Russia, the US and Norway".
Singsaas also expressed his satisfaction with the results achieved during this cooperation. As one example, he mentioned the prototype cask for the storage and transport of spent nuclear fuel. The casks, which are currently being produced in Russia, will assist in increasing the pace of nuclear submarine dismantlement. The US and Great Britain have expressed interest in funding production.
The AMEC Program is also involved in increasing the capabilities for the handling of liquid and solid radioactive waste as well as the construction of a large storage pad for solving the substantial problems associated with nuclear submarine dismantlement.
Singsaas noted the importance of continued US participation in the AMEC Program after 2002. "The tasks relating to dealing with radioctive waste are not only numerous and complex, they also require significant financial resources. This, in addition to US professional experience makes US participation in the program vital and important", Singsaas said in his speech.
The central issue for continuing the AMEC Program is the absence of a legal agreement between Russia, the US and Norway. One of the conditions for continued US participation in the AMEC Program beyond 2002 is the signing of a trilateral legal agreement. Up until this time the US and Norway have used existing bilateral agreements with Russia for legal coverage. State Secretary Singsaas underscored that Norway is working intensively to conclude the necessary agreement.
State Secretary Øystein Singsaas Opens Meeting of the Arctic Military Environmental Cooperation Program