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Executive Summary for June 9th

We review the latest Arctic news, including Russia’s plans to clean up its Arctic nuclear waste, research into dwindling snow cover for Alaskan wolverine dens and disappointment expressed by many Arctic leaders over U.S. plans to withdraw from the Paris climate accord.

Published on June 9, 2017 Read time Approx. 2 minutes

Russia Takes on Its Worst Stockpile of Arctic Nuclear Waste

Russia is preparing to ship spent radioactive fuel from Andreeva Bay on the Kola Peninsula to its Mayak reprocessing plant in the south Urals.

It’s the cumulation of 20 years of work funded by nearby Norway to help clean up Andreeva Bay, which is considered the worst storage facility for Cold War nuclear waste in the Russian Arctic, reports the Barents Observer.

Some nuclear activists, however, are concerned about the cleanup plans. The Techa river near the Mayak plant became polluted by plutonium production back in 1949, and fears remain that today’s plant may be spreading further contamination.

Critics also say the present plan creates too many opportunities for a potential spill: It would see spent fuel shuttled over long distances for years to come, as well as the creation of liquid radioactive waste during reprocessing.

Better, they say, to simply design a storage facility for the spent fuel near where it is presently kept.

Alaska’s Warmer Springs May Expose Denning Wolverines

Earlier spring thaws in Alaska could be bad news for the state’s wolverines, according to new research.

As Alaska Dispatch News reports, the animals depend on snow for denning, and a recent survey found little snow remaining at high-latitude wolverine dens by the end of May.

It’s not clear to researchers how important snow is to wolverine denning. Alaska’s wolverines make extensive use of it to burrow long tunnels, but elsewhere, the animals are known to mix snow with dirt, rocks and other debris to help build dens. Alaska’s wolverines also seem to use snow to help cache food.

While Alaska’s wolverine population is believed to be healthy for now, the U.S. Rocky Mountain population of wolverines is the subject of a controversy over whether the animal should be listed as an endangered species.

Arctic Leaders Criticize U.S. Decision to Exit Paris Climate Agreement

President Donald Trump’s announcement last week that he would begin the process of withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement has rankled the leaders of many Arctic nations.

Radio Canada’s Eye on the Arctic blog offers a roundup of the circumpolar criticism.

“The richest nation in the world shows its negligence regarding the future of mankind,” declared Finland’s energy and environment minister, Kimmo Tiilikainen, in a statement. “The U.S. decision to leave the #ParisAgreement is a decision to leave humanity’s last chance of securing our children’s future on this planet,” wrote Sweden’s foreign minister, Margot Wallström, on Twitter.

“We’re deeply disappointed by the president’s announcement. We believe the Paris agreement is actually good for Canada and for the world, and there’s a huge economic opportunity, and if the U.S. is gonna step back, well we’re gonna step up,” said Canada’s environment minister, Catherine McKenna.

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