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Arctic Circle oil spill: Russian prosecutors order checks at permafrost sites


Image shows a large diesel spill in the Ambarnaya River outside Norilsk in RussiaImage copyright
AFP

Image caption

The leaked diesel oil drifted some 12km (7.5 miles) from the site of the accident

Russian prosecutors have ordered checks at “particularly dangerous installations” built on permafrost after a huge oil spill in the Arctic.

An emergency was declared after 20,000 tonnes of diesel leaked into a river when a tank at a power plant near the city of Norilsk collapsed last Friday.

Initial Russian inquiries suggest ground subsidence as the cause.

The plant is owned by a subsidiary of Norilsk Nickel, which is the world’s leading nickel and palladium producer.

Delays over reporting the collapse prompted criticism from President Vladimir Putin and the power plant’s director, Vyacheslav Starostin, has been taken into custody.

The Russian Investigative Committee has launched a criminal case over pollution and alleged negligence.

Arctic permafrost has been melting in exceptionally warm weather for this time of year.

What checks have been ordered exactly?

Russia’s chief prosecutor, Igor Krasnov, gave orders for regional and environmental prosecutors to conduct a “thorough check” of “particularly dangerous installations” located on “territories exposed to permafrost melting”.

The aim is to prevent a repeat of the incident at the plant near Norilsk.

A spokesman for Mr Krasnov’s department told Russian media prosecutors would assess companies’ adherence to safety laws, environmental monitoring and measures to prevent emergencies.

The effectiveness of state monitoring would also be assessed, he said.

What is permafrost?

The term is used for ground that is frozen continuously for two or more years.

Some 55% of Russia’s territory, predominantly Siberia, is permafrost and home to its main oil and gas fields.

Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

Emergencies ministry specialists have been flown in from Novosibirsk

A 2017 report to the Arctic Council, an international forum which includes Russia, warned that because of global warming and melting ice, foundations in permafrost regions could no longer support the loads they did as recently as the 1980s.

A recent report by Bloomberg news agency points out that Russia’s newer oil infrastructure takes account of the changing climate: storage tanks on the Yamal Peninsula, for instance, are mounted on piles.

How bad was the spill?

The leaked oil drifted some 12km (7.5 miles) from the site, turning long stretches of the Ambarnaya river crimson red.

The spill contaminated…



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2020-06-05 18:13:15

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