Nuclear subs on lease from Russia to India

Publish date: August 16, 2005

Written by: Vera Ponomareva

ST. PETERSBURG—The construction of a training centre for the Indian military in Sosnovy Bor, 70 kilometers west of St. Petersburg, confirms Russia’s intentions to lease nuclear submarines to India, said Green World Chairman Oleg Bodrov.

The international centre will open in September in the town that also hosts the Leningrad Nuclear Power Plant, and will train some 300 Indian naval officers.

Sosnovy Bor is home to the Russian Training Centre for Officers of the Russian Navy which houses working nuclear reactors of the type found on nuclear submarines. These reactors are used to test nuclear fuel and other technologies applicable to nuclear submarine reactors. A building recently went up along side the training centre, where Indian specialists will apparently be schooled.

According to Green World, the building went up in record time following the visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to India last December.

What is the new building?
A spokesman for the Sosnovy Bor administration confirmed to Bellona Web that the international training centre had been built, but had no specific information about the programme of study or the number of officers who will study there.

According to the spokesman, the new building will not house any special equipment or installations—such as nuclear reactors—but is only a wing for classrooms and has no relation to the nuclear industry.

Bodrov, who earlier worked at the Alexandrov Scientific and Technical Research institute (NITI in its Russian abbreviation) where tests of new submarines prototypes are carried out, clarified how such a center would be built. “As far as I can judge from my own experience at NITI the centre would hold simulators—computers that imitate submarines.”


Russia-Indian military co-operation
It is noteworthy that Russia already has experience selling diesel submarines and other weapons to India. Between 1968 and 1971, India purchased eight submarines of project number I-641 and I-641K, eight Project 159AE battle cruisers, eight Project Project 205E missile cruisers and several other assistance vessels.

During 1983 to 1991, India completed its navy with the purchase from the then-USSR of three Project 61ME destroyers, three projects 1234E corvettes, six Project 1258E mine-sweepers, and eight Project 877EKM (NATO Kilo class) submarines.

Then, on January 20th, 2004, India purchased from Russia in one of the biggest contracts to date the Admiral Gorshkov aircraft carrier, built in 1978. The Russian firm Rosoboroneksport took upon itself the modernisation of the ship and equipping it with state of the at weapons systems and deck-borne aviation, such as MiG 29Ks, and Ka-27 and Ka-31 anti-submarine helicopters.

At present the foundation of the Indian Navy is nine diesel Kilo submarines from Russia’s Rubin graving yard in St. Petersburg and several ships analogous to the West German JKL 209/1500 type.

Proliferation Risks
In the opinion of ecologists, the coming submarine lease deal poses a serious threat to international security, stimulating, as it does, the Indian-Pakistani nuclear arms race.

“Arming of third world countries is a very dangerous business that can lead to military escalation in the east,” said Vladimir Chuprov, coordinator of energy programmes at Greenpeace Russia.

Chuprov said that selling weapons to India was a “regurgitation of the Cold War.”

”Kremlin bureaucrats still live on the fundamentals of the last century, considering the basic task of the state to be wide-scale preparation for war, arming India, North Korea and other countries.”

Chuprov continued saying that a submarine can contain up to 10 kilograms of plutonium in its spent nuclear fuel. “And even though nuclear scientists are usually specify that this is not weapons quality plutonium, energy plutonium still explodes,” he said.

India is one of four influential countries that are not signatories to the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

A new installation—a new target for terrorists
According to Green World’s Bodrov, the current deal not only sharpens the situation in Southeast Asia, but implies another danger: Placing the training centre in Sosnovy Bor puts the city on the radar of terrorists.

At the Leningrad Nuclear Power Plant alone there are four reactors of the Chernobyl-type RMBK 1000, several naval reactors at NITI, temporary storage for highly radioactive waste from the nuclear power plant, and enough highly toxic waste to constitute dozens of Chernobyls. The Northwest Russian regional facility of RADON for the outdoor storage of medium and high level nuclear waste also operates in Sosnovy Bor as does the Ekomet-S firm, a smelting plant for radioactive metals.

“The appearance in Sosnovy Bor of an international Russian-Indian centre for nuclear cooperation in the military sphere could create a nuclear and radiological dangerous installation on the Russia Baltic into a target for international terrorism,” said Bodrov.