U.S., Russia cooperate on Secret nuclear cargo along coast of Norway

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Barents Observer

Despite cold political climate, the U.S. and Russia cooperated on a secret September voyage with Highly-enriched uranium from Poland to Murmansk. Norwegian radiation authorities not informed before the vessel sailed into its economical zone.

Head of Vardø Vessel Traffic Service, Ståle Sveinungsen, confirms to BarentsObserver that the vessel “Mikhail Dudin” was carrying a load of highly radioactive material when it sailed along the coast of Norway two weeks ago.

“That is correct. The vessel entered Vardø Traffic Service’s systems on the evening on September 2nd and sailed out again in the afternoon on September 8th,” says Ståle Sveinungsen.

Last position of the vessel, posted on MarineTraffic.com was September 15th, when she was in the waters just outside Atomflot in the Kola Bay.

Based in Vardø on the coast of the Barents Sea, Ståle Sveinungsen (right) keeps control of all vessel traffic along the coast of Norway. (Photo: Thomas Nilsen)
Mikhail Dudin” come from Gdynia in Poland and sailed into Norwegian economical waters southeast of Kristiansand and left Norwegian waters east of the Varanger fjord in the Barents Sea where she made port call to Murmansk the day after.

Norwegian Radiation Authorities are responsible for emergency preparedness and has on similar occasions earlier said that they would like Polish or other authorities to inform Norway upfront of such potentially dangerous cargo on route along the Norwegian coast.

“Norwegian Radiation Protection Authorities was informed the same evening,” says Ståle Sveinungsen.

Nuclear physicist with the Bellona Foundation in Oslo, Nils Bøhmer, is concerned about the fact that the agency responsible for radiation preparedness was not informed before.

Nils Bøhmer with the Bellona Foundation. (Photo: Thomas Nilsen)
“I’m deeply worried about that fact,” he says to BarentsObserver and argues that lack of information makes it very difficult to establish needed safety precautions.

Highly-enriched uranium can be used to produce nuclear weapons and the Americans responsible for the transport have on similar occasions earlier argued that fears of terrorism is the main reason why such cargoes sails without upfront notices.

The U.S.– Russian cooperation is a part of the global campaign to reduce the threat of materials that could serve to provide unwanted non-governmental groups or states with the nuclear bomb.

Without naming the voyage to Murmansk earlier in September, U.S. Secretary of Energy, Ernest Moniz, says to Reuters this week that “we have just moved more than 50 kilograms of Highly-enriched uranium from Poland, working cooperatively, to accomplish that.

Russian officials were not immediately available for comments on the shipment.

In Murmansk, the cargo vessel “Mikhail Dudin” makes port call to Atomflot, the harbour of Russia’s civilian nuclear powered icebreaker fleet, some few kilometres north of the city centre. From Atomflot, the potential nuclear bomb material is transported by rail to Mayak in the South-Urals.

The first time such nuclear cargo shipment took place outside the coast of Norway was back in 2009. Then, Norwegian Radiation Authorities was not informed about the cargo before being contacted by BarentsObserver.