After mass inspections, Russian watchdog says repeat of huge Arctic fuel leak unlikely

MOSCOW, March 19 (Reuters) - Russia’s safety watchdog said on Friday it had inspected nearly 4,000 fuel storage tanks in the Arctic since a huge leak last year, and determined that the environmental disaster was unlikely to be repeated, TASS news agency reported.

Metals producer Nornickel paid $2 billion, the biggest environmental fine in Russian history, after 21,000 tonnes of diesel fuel leaked into rivers and subsoil from a storage tank at a power plant in the Arctic part of Siberia last year.

The watchdog, Rostekhnadzor, said that since the leak it had carried out urgent inspections of all 3,874 fuel tanks in Russia’s Arctic territory. It found that 78% of them were in good or satisfactory condition.

Of the rest, 12% were taken out of service either before or following the inspections, and 10% were operating only at partial capacity or with other restrictions to ensure safety, TASS quoted it as saying.

Interfax news agency reported that the watchdog had proposed gradual changes to require Arctic fuel storage tanks to be decommissioned after a shorter period of use, and large ones be replaced by smaller ones. Satellites should be used to monitor the condition of dangerous industrial assets in the Arctic.

The coronavirus pandemic had caused a temporary increase in industrial accidents in the Arctic, as some staff responsible for safety were forced to take sick leave, the watchdog said, according to RIA news agency. (Reporting by Polina Devitt Editing by Peter Graff)