Zvezda shipyard loses manager and state funding

The controversial radwaste processing facility, which was subject to referenda and hot debates, will be put into operation by November 1998. The new date was announced by Dmitry Lobanov, the deputy chief of the radiation safety department at Zvezda naval yard in the Russian Far East in an interview to the local daily Vladivostok. The facility is currently undergoing exams at Vostok shipyard located on the western side of the Shkotovo Peninsula, some 40 km east of the city of Vladivostok. The facility will later be towed to Zvezda shipyard situated in the same area, where it will be home-based.

The floating radwaste facility with a price tag of $21 million provided by Japan was designed by American Babcock & Wilcox and built at Russian Amurskiy shipyard in the Far East. The facility had been scheduled to begin operations on September 1997, then January 1998. Today, a new date is specified as November 1998.

The facility is not self-propelled, 66 meters long and displaces 2,500 tons. It has room to store 800 tons of liquid waste mixed with concrete. The facility will be located at custom-fitted mooring at Zvezda yard, where it would receive electricity, fresh water etc. The facility has its own diesel generator onboard capable of providing 30 days worth of autonomous energy supplies Earlier options included placing the facility farther from Bolshoy Kamen, a settlement nearby Zvezda, but did not gain support from the operators. They feared that location would increase the risk of accidents during transportation of liquid radwaste from Zvezda to the remote location.

Zvezda squeezed by reduced budgets
Valeriy Maslakov, manager of Zvezda, resigned in early August. The retirement followed his inability to fulfill promises to his employees to cover salary arrears by July 1. The decision to cover all the state debts to Zvezda for the past years was made by Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin earlier this year. Chernomyrdin also promised to provide the yard with a rent-free loan amounting to $25 million. After Chernomyrdin was sacked, the newly formed government, reduced the loan to $3,3 million, while earmarking in reality only $1,2 million.

Russia’s Defense Ministry owes the yard $22 million. Nevertheless, earlier this year Zvezda won a tender to repair one nuclear powered submarine, placed in defence budget for the year 1998. After Chernomyrdin was removed, the sum allotted for the submarine repair was so insufficient that the yard had to suspend the work on the boat, at that time 75,6% completed. No money has been transferred since then, despite appeals to the Navy headquarters and the government.

Against the backdrop of the recent economic crisis in Russia, Zvezda hopes to receive some cash from the U.S. The CTR program (Cooperative Treat Reduction) intends to fund the scrapping of two nuclear-powered submarines at Zvezda. The status of that project is unclear.

Igor Kudrik

igor@bellona.no