Dangerous nuclear operation in Kola Peninsula

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Experts from the Russian state nuclear energy company Rosatom are preparing for the removal of spent nuclear fuel from a submarine reactor in the base of Gremikha on the Barents Sea coast. The operation is highly complicated and dangerous, they say.

The spent nuclear fuel will be removed from a reactor formerly belonging to a “Alfa”-class submarine. The operation is part of the Russian effort to decommission and scrap the many retired nuclear subs left after the Soviet period.

The decommissioning of the “Alfa” reactors is considered especially complicated, because of the liquid metal cooled reactor cores. Of the total of seven “Alfa” submarines built in the Soviet Union, only one vessel now remains to be decommissioned and scrapped. In addition a second reactor compartment has previously been removed from the vessel and awaits removal of spent nuclear fuel, Rosatom confirms.

A total of 22 Russian control authorities are present in Gremikha to observe the operation, Murman.ru reports. The last similar operation was made in 2005

According to Rosatom, the base in Gremikha has a dry dock and special infrastructures, and is the only place in Russia were similar operations can be made. The operation is conducted by the SevRAO company, a unit under Rosatom.

The spent nuclear fuel from the reactor is to be stored in the Lotta service ship moored in the base. In addition, Russian authorities will need to handle the storage of submarine reactor compartments.

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