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Norway unhappy about Russia's delayed notification of submarine fire

(Xinhua)

09:57, December 31, 2011

OSLO, Dec. 30 (Xinhua) -- Norwegian officials said on Friday that they were unhappy about Russia's delayed notification of and inadequate information about the fire which broke out Thursday involving a Russian nuclear submarine at the Murmansk shipyard.

"It is worrying that the Norwegian authorities were not notified in accordance with the notification arrangements that apply to events that may cause emissions," said Nils Bohmer, chairman of Norway's Environment Board.

The Russian authorities said that the fire had been extinguished early Friday morning after firefighters fought it for 20 hours and that no nuclear leaks had been detected.

The ill-fated Yekaterinburg submarine, which can carry up to 16 intercontinental missiles with four nuclear warheads each, was to dock for repairing at the Rosljakovo naval shipyard in Murmansk, which lies a little more than 100 kilometers away from the border with Norway.

But, Bohmer told the state-owned Norwegian broadcast and TV company NRK that Norway was closely monitoring the situation in case the fire flares up again or a radiation risk should occur.

The Norwegians were upset as it was uncertain for quite a long time whether there was danger of the spread of radioactivity and if the reported east wind would carry any emissions to Norway.

Gunnar Kjoennoey, governor of Norway's northernmost county of Finnmark, which borders with Russia, made a strong reaction to the lack of information from the Russian side.

"It has been difficult to get precise information from the Russian side. We have an agreement on information exchange in such cases. But there has been no information from the Russian side so far," he told NRK.

Kjoennoey said that he would take up the issue with the Russian authorities.

"We will discuss this in any case during the regular meetings with the Russians in the winter," said the Finnmark governor, who asked the residents of Finnmark to remain calm.

The Norwegian foreign ministry has called for lowering the threshold for notification of nuclear-related accidents between Norway and Russia.

"There is no doubt that we would prefer that Norway was notified about the accident," said Erik Lahnstein, a state secretary of the Norwegian Foreign Ministry.

Director Per Strand of the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority believes it has good contact with the Russians for information about the fire.

Meanwhile, the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority (NRPA) was satisfied with the information from Russia over the accident.

NRPA got in touch with the Russians after he was informed by the Norwegian foreign ministry about the nuclear submarine fire in Murmansk.

"We have been in contact with Russian authorities this morning and learned that there is no danger of spills. We have not measured anything on our own stations," said Per Strand, the NRPA director.

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