Decommissioning of nuclear submarines at Polyarny

Publish date: February 19, 1997

Written by: Igor Kudrik

According to Naval magazine "Mosrskoy Sbornik" the accidental nuclear submarine K-192 (Echo-II class), stationed in Polyarny, is to be defuelled in the near future.

K-192 is outfitted with two reactors. The core of the starboard reactor partly melted down during an accident in the Norwegian Sea on June 25 1989. Today a part of the fuel is stuck in the reactor, making removal difficult with standard equipment. After the accident the sub was stationed at the Ara-guba Naval base on the Kola Peninsula, until it was transferred to the Naval repair yard in Polayrny in 1994. At that time the vessel needed permanent technical surveillance to be kept afloat.

At a conference on sumbarine decommissioning, held in Severodvinsk in March 1995, the K-192 was named as one of the Naval objects which required special technology to be defuelled. At present the Naval specialists claim that the levels of radiation onboard the submarine has decreased. Adding further viability to the K-192 operation, is also the fact that current regulations allow for up to 50 damaged fuel rods to be left in the reactors of decommissioned first generation submarines. The average Russian submarine reactor contains up to 252 fuel assemblies.

To perform the operation the Northern Fleet planned to use servicing boat PM-12 (project 2020, Malina class), stationed at Naval repair yard Nerpa. The technical condition of PM-12 is highly unsatisfactory. In fact, in 1993 the Russian nuclear control authorities (Gosatomnadzor) prohibited use of PM-12 in refuelling operations, in accordance with the safety regulations. Nevertheless, the Northern Fleet continues to use the boat actively.

K-5 decomissioned whithout incident
In the end of November 1996 the Naval Yard in Polyarny defuelled the 37 years old K-5 submarine (November class). This was the second nuclear-powered submarine built in the USSR. K-5 has been laid-up for more than 12 years, awaiting its turn to be scrapped. No incidents were reported during the defuelling operation.