DoD negotiates maritime fuel handling at Mayak

Publish date: July 10, 1998

Written by: Igor Kudrik

U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) representatives visited the Mayak reprocessing plant in Siberia this week to discuss possibilities for handling spent nuclear fuel from the dismantled submarines in the Pacific Fleet. The visit is apparently part of SLBM launcher elimination project within the Co-operative Threat Reduction (CTR) program.

DoD has apparently decided to study ways of accelerating the nuclear-powered submarines dismantlement in the Russian Pacific Fleet located in the Far East by shipping spent fuel from the subs to Mayak for intermediate storage. The unresolved question of what to do with spent nuclear fuel from the submarines taken out of service is one of the major factors stalling the implementation of START I commitments. Thus, by solving this issue, DoD can proceed at a faster pace towards the objective of the SLBM launcher elimination project within CTR.

CTR, referred to as well as Nunn-Lugar program, was launched in November 1991. The U.S. Congress authorised $1.6 billion for the program. This congressional effort provided DoD with the authority to fund assistance to the former Soviet states to dismantle and destroy weapons of mass destruction and to strengthen the security of nuclear weapons and fissile materials in connection with dismantlement. The SLBM launcher elimination project aims at assisting in the distruction of 480 SLBM launchers and the dismantlement of 31 ballistic missile submarines to meet START I requirements. The funding for the project obligated to date is some $39,5 million.

A similar project on shipping spent nuclear fuel from the Russian Northern Fleet submarines is under way under a co-operative project between Russia and four western companies. The project objective is to build a new storage facility at Mayak for spent nuclear fuel. This project is also listed in the Norwegian-Russian agreement aimed at environmental cleanup in the Arctic. The agreement was signed in May this year.

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