Norway and Russia – nuclear breakthrough in the North
Check against delivery
Let me start by sharing three observations: The nuclear and radiation security cooperation between Norway and the Russian Federation is a success story.
Enhancing nuclear and radiation security is a Russian responsibility – and the success is more than anything a Russian success.
Dismantling the used reactors from decommissioned submarines and the safe handling of spent fuel and hazardous nuclear waste constitute a particularly important and complex part of this effort.
This notwithstanding, an international fund was established at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in 2001 - to coordinate and finance nuclear efforts in Northwest Russia. It is an important tool for carrying out large-scale tasks effectively. I am happy to note that this facility is still in place, and will continue to be so for many more years to come.
In parallel, several countries have engaged with Russia in bilateral financing schemes, research and technical support. They have shared and exchanged extensive knowledge and competence.
For Norway it has been a particular concern to assist in maximizing safety, by engaging in complex and costly clean-up activities – and thus minimizing security risks in the vulnerable, vast and rich, in particular in terms of bio-resources, ocean areas at our common doorstep.
We manage these ocean areas jointly through bilateral cooperation. Our mutual purpose is to promote predictable, peaceful and sustainable development in the Arctic.
The nuclear and radiation security cooperation between Russia and Norway stands tall. It is a landmark achievement in our bilateral relations.
If the people to people diplomacy and cooperation in the north is both an end and a means of our High North Policy, then environmental, nuclear and radiation safety form the cornerstone of this diplomatic formula.
Because how could we ever establish the foundation for healthy, prosperous and forward-looking relations between the peoples of the north with the threat of nuclear pollution hanging over our heads?
How could we, together with Russia, succeed in turning the page and moving ahead if the nuclear realities of the past were allowed to hold back progressive effort - by continuing to pose a risk to people’s well-being and their present and future livelihoods in the north?
Another great benefit of this joint effort has been the confidence it has cemented in the relations between national regulatory authorities: the State Atomic Energy Corporation “Rosatom” and the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority. This has furthermore paved the way for constructive involvement of civil society.
It would be remiss of me if I did not share with you my regret that the environmental NGO, Bellona, has been declared “foreign agent”. Their contribution towards environmental protection and nuclear security is significant, and have served our mutual Norwegian-Russian interests well, in my opinion. It would be unfortunate if Bellona were to be forced to discontinue their future involvement because of this decision.
On an overall note, it is clear that the confidence building, to which we owe much to our nuclear and radiation security cooperation over many years, has provided a sense of common purpose, agreement and direction that serve our broader bilateral relations and the regional interaction well.
Tellingly, the bilateral nuclear and radiation security cooperation has withstood setbacks and allowed us to continue activities even in the face of severe challenges on the wider international scene.
In 2014, 2015 and 2016 we conducted very productive annual meetings in the Joint Norwegian-Russian Commission on nuclear and radiation security.
The next meeting will be held in Kirkenes in June. It will be particularly important for two reasons. Firstly, it will mark the 20th anniversary of the Commission. Secondly, the removal of spent nuclear fuel from the Andreev Bay is scheduled to begin at the very same time.
A Working Group has been established to plan and lead this breakthrough. The work starts now.
Indeed, what stands out today is the hard and technically complicated work of many competent women and men over many years.
They have worked with foresight and determination to create a new environmental tomorrow in the North.
It strikes me that these women and men, by their immense effort and sense of responsibility, have pushed forward the frontiers of what can be achieved by research, knowledge and cooperation in the Arctic.
This is the backdrop for the removal work which begins in a few months.
On a final note: Research, knowledge and cooperation is not a race. It does not divide. It unites our common ambitions for the common good in the Arctic.
It is my personal conviction that Russia and Norway will continue to strengthen, unite and eventually expand the frontiers of cooperation in nuclear and radiation security - and continue to be pioneers for future agreements and breakthroughs in this important field.