Second day of Bellona roundtable on radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel zeros in on Andreyeva Bay

Publish date: November 2, 2008

Written by: Anna Kireeva

Translated by: Charles Digges

ST. PETERSBURG - A number of European organizations and countries will be participating in the safe activation of spent nuclear fuel stores at Russia’s former naval base of Andreyeva bay – a notorious facility that was meant to store the fuel on a temporary basis that by now has become decades.

The second day of the Bellona-hosted seminar on dealing with Russia’s mounting piles of nuclear waste and spent nuclear fuel was dedicated to solving the issues plaguing the Andreyeva Bay, whose spent nuclear fuel and radwaste came from decommissioned nuclear submarines of Russia’s Northern Fleet.

Spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste storage facilities at Andreyeva Bay were hastily built during the Soviet era. They were meant to be used on a temporary basis to house nuclear materials, which are still being stored there at enormous risk to the environment and local community. The facilities store more than 20,000 spent nuclear fuel assemblies.

Among those European governments that are offering their assistance is Great Britain, which is financing the removal of the spent fuel from its current seaside based storage vessels, as well as participating in  creation of safe storage conditions for the spent nuclear fuel until the removal and rehabilitation of infrastructure for handling the fuel.

The United Kingdom is  building a facilities for deactivation, purchase and deployment of decontamination centres and the creation of a radiological-ecological laboratory.

Sweden is financing the development of technical economical studies of dealing with solid and liquid radioactive waste at Andreyeva Bay and the construction of a physical defence station.

Norway has earmarked money for radiation inspections on the temporary storage facilities, and geodetic, radiation-geological and hydrological surveys. Norwegian money has funded many surveys on the buildings and construction at Andreyeva Bay. The conduction of the surveys and investigations were included in part of the primary data for the basic investment. Norway has also financed the design and construction of the administrative and living complex – the so called “Norwegian Village”- consisting of roads, plumbing, technical changing rooms, and physical safety elements.

According to representatives of Russia’s state nuclear corporation Rosatom, who participated in the Bellona seminar, the Andreyeva Bay site has in the last few years undergone significant changes. Old building have been hauled off, a new infrastructure and complex of defences has been built, which has reduced the dangers of radiation hazards. The piers are under reconstruction, and the engineering schematics for buffer storage for spent nuclear fuel have been completed, and tools for handling spent nuclear fuel are being developed.

The construction of a repair workshop with a decontamination zone is also underway, and loading machines and support modules for handling spent nuclear fuel, including an unloading and loading workshop.

However, the most important question still remains to be solved: how to remove thousands of tons of spent nuclear fuel assemblies.