Solving the nuclear sub decommission problems

Publish date: October 10, 1997

Written by: Igor Kudrik

Two professors from the Academy of Military Science of Russia believe that the Navy should not be responsible for decommissioning of nuclear powered submarines pulled out of service. Their opinion was presented in an article published in Russian daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta.

–The Navy should not perform functions which have nothing to do with its direct responsibilities, write retired rear-admiral professor Georgiy Kostev and Ph.D. Sergey Patyrev.

All the works and responsibilities related to decommissioning of submarines and handling of radwaste should be transferred to the industrial complex. There must be a law, say the authors, to the effect of ending the Navy’s responsibility for a vessel at the moment it is officially taken out of service.

–And this must be the very first task in reforming the Navy, claim the authors.

On the other hand, the authors believe that strict control should be established over the means earned through sales of scrap metal from decommissioned subs, in order to ensure transferral of these funds back to the Navy.

The latter has been a matter of discussion for the last 5 years. As for now 3 governmental decrees concerning decommissioning of nuclear submarines and one decree signed by the president in 1995, have been adopted. The first governmental decree came in July 1992, assuming transferral of all the nuclear powered vessels to the industrial complex for decommissioning, thus depriving the Navy itself of its share in the profit earned on these operations.

Not having objected publicly in the first place, naval officials started to raise the question in 1995, when the funding of their activities started to get drastically reduced. They demanded that there must be a compensation paid to the Navy upon transfer of laid-up vessels to the industry for decommissioning. Following these statements, one of the Naval yards in Polyarny on the Kola Peninsula was granted the right to perform decommissioning of nuclear subs in 1996. This year it was expected that other Naval yards would get similar orders.

Meanwhile, decommissioning of nuclear submarines proved to bring no profit, as sales of scrap metals hardly covered the expenses for the actual works performed. Thus receiving no refunding from the government, the military industrial complex yards in Severodvinsk had to establish a number of commercial enterprises within their structures, performing operations on cutting subs and selling the scrap metal. This led to cut-out reactor compartments being left idling in the harbour of Severodvinsk, awaiting Navy financing to be tugged to the laid-up site in Saida guba.

This year there is an apparent progress in the Navy’s apprehension of the situation. They would very much like to get rid of the laid-up submarines and the responsibility for handling radwaste; while at the same time being reluctant to give away the vessels for free, demanding some kind of refund, or, as stated in the article of the professors, "strict control should be established over the means earned through sales of scrap metal from decommissioned subs, in order to ensure transferral of these funds back to the Navy", thus forcing the military industrial complex yards to work for free.