Russian nuclear fuel has been transported via Finland by air despite Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine, YLE news reported.

Two planes carrying Russian nuclear fuel recently left Helsinki Airport for an undisclosed destination, the paper said. The previous such delivery took place in November. Fuel was then loaded onto two planes in Lappeenranta, eastern Finland, bound for Bratislava, Slovakia.

Petteri Tiippana, Director General of Finnish Radiation & Nuclear Safety Authority (STUK – Säteilyturvakeskus), confirmed that two planes loaded with nuclear fuel had left Helsinki Airport but declined to comment on the destination. Similar deliveries pass through Finland a few times each year, he said.

According to the aviation tracking site Flightradar24, two Swiftair planes left the airport bound for Brno in the Czech Republic, YLE reported. The Spanish airline Swiftair does not operate regular passenger flights through Helsinki. The Czech Republic, Slovakia and Finland are among the EU countries that are still using Russian nuclear fuel for their Soviet-built NPPs. Nuclear fuels are not subject to EU sanctions imposed on Russia. Rosatom fuel company TVEL currently supplies fuel for Finland’s Loviisa NPP, which comprises two VVER-440 reactors.

During the November fuel delivery to Slovakia, two lorries arrived at Lappeenranta airport with a police convoy in the early evening. The vehicles were loaded with long pipes marked with radiation hazard symbols. YLE reported the presence of personnel from STUK, staff from Fortum's Loviisa NPP as well as police officers from all over southeast Finland. Airport crews loaded the cargo onto two Swiftair planes bound for Bratislava.

Staff from Fortum who helped to supervise the operationsaid it was not related to the Loviisa NPP. "The cargo has nothing to do with the operation or production of the Loviisa plant. And we can also confirm that it is not nuclear waste," Fortum Senior Communications Manager Mark Autio told YLE. STUK’s Petteri Tiippana confirmed that the fuel came from Russia. "Transporting unused fuel through Finland is a very well-established activity," he said, adding that fuel is delivered to Finnish nuclear plants "a few times a year". He said STUK checked the plan for that transport and for earlier related security plans. "We concluded that they were appropriate and permission for the transport was given," he said. He confirmed that Fortum and the police played a role in securing the transport. "When this kind of transport takes place, security personnel are needed. In this case, the (nuclear fuel) driver ordered the security for the transport through Fortum," he explained.

Image: Nuclear fuel being loaded onto an airplane in Lappeenranta, eastern Finland (courtesy of Jari Tanskanen / Yle)