Finland supports Norway’s project to replace Russia’s radioactive RTG lighthouses in the Gulf of Finland
On 10 November, Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb and his Norwegian counterpart Jonas Gahr Støre signed a cooperation agreement on the replacement of Russia’s radioactive RTG (radioisotope thermoelectric generator) lighthouses in the Gulf of Finland. These risk-prone lighthouses, 87 in all, are located mostly in the sea area off the City of Vyborg. They will be provided with alternative power sources, such as solar panels. Finland is committed to paying 1.5 million euros towards the project led by Norway. The total budget of the three-year project is about 10 million euros, most of which will be covered by Norway.
The project, to be carried out in 2009–2011, is part of the Global Partnership programme of the G8 countries. The principal financier of the programme is the United States. So far funding of RTG projects has been shared among the United States, Russia, Canada, Norway and France. Norway already has experience of the replacement of power sources in 153 RTG lighthouses in the Barents Sea and has the necessary agreements and cooperation relations with Russia. Russia will provide the workforce needed for disassembly, transport, interim storage and disposal.
Finland’s input consists of a financial contribution, most of which is given to Norway. A maximum of 10 per cent of the total sum is allocated to the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority of Finland (STUK), which will provide expert services for the project on behalf of Finland.
The project will improve safety at sea in the area and will prevent groups, such as terrorists, from getting hold of radioactive materials. The RTG lighthouses in the Gulf of Finland were recently provided with an alarm system funded by the United States; this system alerts the Russian Coast Guard if unauthorised persons try to dismount the radioactive power source. The RTG sources are replaced not only because of the risk of unauthorised use but also because they have aged: their power is falling and the tightness of the sources is decreasing. Because of radioactive leaks, it would be more difficult and more expensive to recover them later. However, leaks do not pose any danger to the environment or to people disassembling the devices because the sources are inside protective casings.
The project is a good example of both Nordic and tripartite neighbouring area cooperation. Norway’s role as the initiator, project leader and financier is crucial.
Additional information: First Secretary Marja Rosvall, Ministry for Foreign Affairs, tel. +358 9 1605 6030, mobile tel. +358 40 481 9902, and Heikki Reponen, Head of Unit, STUK, tel. +358 9 7598 8686