A multilateral agreement to help clean up the nuclear legacy from the Cold War era in the north west of Russia, and to improve nuclear safety, has been signed in Stockholm on 21 May.

The agreement, the Multilateral Nuclear Environmental Programme in the Russian Federation (MNEPR), will allow a massive cleanup of nuclear material to begin in northwest Russia. It will focus on naval spent fuel from 109 decommissioned submarines and other radioactive wastes from Russia’s Northern Fleet, particularly in the Kola Peninsula. It will also involve reactor safety at the Leningrad and Kola nuclear plants. In 2002, a total of r110 million was pledged by the European Union and other countries, of which r62 million will be available immediately. Much more than this is expected to be provided eventually from the G8 Global Partnership Fund.

Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Russia, Sweden, UK, USA, the European Union and Euratom are signatories to the agreement.

Swedish minister for foreign affairs, Anna Lindh, said: “MNEPR addresses the most important legal questions: access to sites, tax exemption and liability. With the signing of the agreement, a legal framework is now available under which we can work together to deal with spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste in northwest Russia, and to improve reactor safety. Now companies that have the capability to play a part in this undertaking will have sufficient guarantees to dare to get involved in projects in this area.” She added that funds can now be released from the Northern Dimension Environmental Partnership support fund, which was established in July 2002 by six EU member states and the EC, and is administered by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.