Nuclear storage ship Lepse to be dismantled at Nerpa shipyard

The Lepse is a floating storage facility for spent nuclear fuel, and liquid and solid radioactive wastes from the Russian icebreaker fleet.

The Nerpa chief engineer Rostislav Rimdenok, said to Interfax that the first coordinating meeting has already taken place where the main Russian participants of the project gathered: Nerpa shipyard, company Aspect-Konversia (Rosatom’s daughter company), Severodvinsk design bureau Onega. The project is financed by the European Commission in the frames of the TACIS program. The appropriate contract was signed in the end of 2005. According to the specialists, the project cost of the whole project is about $30m.

Rimdenok said to Interfax, that it should be decided how the ship can be transported to Nerpa and on which platform it should be mounted before dismantlement. It should be taken into consideration the fact that Lepse is a real threat to the radiation safety of Murmansk and the whole region. He added that Nerpa is the only site where Lepse can be dismantled safely, but it requires significant time and financing.

According to the contract, the project’s preliminary stages will be carried out during 18 months. In particular, it concerns the development of the best alternative of the facility dismantlement, working out of the chosen alternative, paper work for the tender. The Lepse managing committee has been established and headed by the NEFCO representative Magnus Rystedt.

The technical support vessel Lepse presents the biggest nuclear and radiation risk of all retired nuclear service ships in Russia. In 1988, the vessel was taken out of service, and, in 1990, it was assigned the category of "laid-up vessel." The Lepse’s spent nuclear fuel storage holds (in casks and caissons) 639 spent fuel assemblies (SFAs), and a significant portion of them is severely damaged. Extraction of the SFAs from storage holds would present a radiation risk and be a complex technical operation, the framework for which has still not been worked out. The ship is presently laid-up at Atomflot, which carries out service on nuclear powered icebreakers. Atomflot is located in the Kola Bay, two kilometres from the boarder of Murmansk city, which has population of 400,000. The ship is operated by joint stock company Murmansk Shipping Company (MSCo).

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