Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)


Novaya Zemlya
Northern Test Site
N 7323' E 5445'

Novaya Zemlya was the site of extensive Soviet atmospheric and underground testing, including the largest thermonuclear device ever tested, a 58 megaton air-dropped bomb detonated October 23, 1961. Of the 42 underground explosions at Novaya Zemlya, 25 were accompanied by release of radioactive inert gases. There were three underwater explosions, each less than 20 kiloton, but most of the radionuclides remained in the water and sediments. A total of 17 reactors were dumped in the Barents Sea, to the west of Novaya Zemlya, including seven containing spent nuclear fuel.

Sub-critical hydrodynamic experiments with separate elements of nuclear ordnance are currently conducted at the Novaya Zemlya testing range. At least four or six such studies are conducted on Novaya Zemlya. These tests allow evaluation of criteria under which it is possible to store, transport and use nuclear ordnance safely.

In late June 2002, Atomic Energy Minister Alexander Rumyantsev and Economic Development and Trade Minister Herman Gref visited the Arkhangelsk Region together with Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov. The visit to the nuclear testing range on the Novaya Zemlya Archipelago was another important aspect of the working visit of the ministers to the Arkhangelsk Region. Ivanov announced that Russia was not going to restart real nuclear tests, but the President had issued an order "to maintain the testing range in working order and to develop its infrastructure." On the eve of his trip to Novaya Zemlya, Atomic Energy Minister Alexander Rumyantsev did not rule out the possibility of nuclear explosion test organization on Novaya Zemlya. "There is no issue of restarting of nuclear tests on the agenda yet. However, if such a task is set, it will be fulfilled," explained Rumyantsev.

When the governmental commission visited the testing range in June 2002 it discussed a possibility to bury nuclear waste there. Some officials of the Atomic Energy Ministry and Economic Development and Trade Ministry proposed this idea, saying that this may be a normal commercial project. Initially, it is planned to bury liquid and solid wastes of the 190 nuclear submarines discarded by the Defense Ministry in the wells drilled in rocks of the archipelago. After that it is planned to bury waste of nuclear stations, including stations from other countries, in the same way. The Atomic Energy Minister stated that he was against such an idea.Defense Minister Ivanov is also averse to the project for construction of a nuclear waste storage facility on Novaya Zemlya.



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