Opening Statement at the 10th Contact Expert Group Meeting by Réne Nyberg

Deputy Director General Head of Division for Eastern Affairs Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland Helsinki, 23 May 2000

On behalf of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, it is my great pleasure to bid you welcome to Finland and to the 10th Contact Expert Group meeting (CEG).

You have a full agenda with many important items. Since this meeting takes place here in Finland, we thought it appropriate to introduce also the present stage of preparations of the EU´s Northern Dimension, even though the Northern Dimension no longer remains a Finnish initiative but has become part of the EU´s external and cross-border policies.

Last December, the European Council invited the European Commission to prepare an Action Plan for the Northern Dimension. The Action Plan is expected to be endorsed at the Feira European Council in June. One of the priority areas in the Action Plan is nuclear safety including nuclear waste and spent fuel management.

The co-operation between Finland and Russia in the area of nuclear power, nuclear safety and waste management has a long history. It started in the 1960´s, when it was decided that the first Finnish Nuclear Power Plant would be ordered from the Soviet Union. During the construction of the Loviisa plant, contractors and regulators of both country were in daily contact. During yearly maintenance, a substantial group of Russian reactor experts still today come to work in Loviisa. Concerning the regulatory aspects close co-operation continues between the Finnish Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority and Gosatomnadzor.

Turning to the issue of nuclear waste management, I would like to note that both Finnish Nuclear Power Plants already have their own low and intermediate waste repositories in operation at the power plant sites. On Thursday, the CEG will visit the Loviisa power plant waste repository. Finland is also progressing well in planning the final repository for spent nuclear fuel. The environmental impact assessment and preliminary safety assessment for the future repository have been carried out, evaluated and approved. The municipality of Eurajoki, where the Olkiluoto Nuclear Power plant is situated, has accepted the repository to be built in Olkiluoto. The Finnish Government and Parliament are expected to take decisions in the course of this year "that the building of the repository is for the overall benefit of the society". After that, closer site inspections for construction can be started. The actual construction of the repository is planned to begin in 2010 and the use of it in 2020.

This 10th CEG meeting is marking two important milestones:

Firstly, almost exactly five years ago, from 15 to 17 of May 1995, a Seminar on International Co-operation on Nuclear Waste Management in the Russian Federation was held in the premises of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna. The meeting was organised on the basis of a Nordic Initiative and it proved to be very successful. Altogether thirty representatives of different bodies of the Russian Federation, Minatom together with operators that generate waste and take care of waste management, Gosatomnadzor as well as other regulators were present. The donors were represented by fifty experts. The meeting recognised the need for co-operation and co-ordination and lead to the founding of the Contact Expert Group.

Secondly, this is the tenth meeting of the CEG. There is a clear need for CEG. If there were no CEG, it should be established. However, it is time to reflect again what we are expecting the CEG to accomplish. It´s mission is clearly stated in the Terms of Reference: "The objective of the CEG is to promote international co-operative efforts aimed at resolving radioactive waste management issues [in the Russian Federation] including radiation safety, environmental, technical, legal, organizational and financial matters".

As we begin our meeting, foremost on our agenda is the Russian Government´s Resolution on the Federal Program on Nuclear and Radiation Security, issued in February. In the resolution, appropriate Russian ministries are assigned the task to include the Program in the list of federal programs for the years 2001 to 2006. It is of utmost importance that the Russian political leadership maintain its resolve to improve nuclear safety. It is equally important that the Russian authorities take action to implement nuclear safety.

With these initial thoughts I would like to wish you a successful meeting and pleasant stay in Finland.