CTR funds Russian subs decommissioning

Publish date: December 1, 1998

Written by: Igor Kudrik

The U.S. Co-operative Threat Reduction (CTR) program has funded decommissioning of three nuclear-powered submarines of the Northern Fleet and two submarines of the Pacific Fleet in 1998. Four or five submarines are negotiated for the year 1999.

Zvezda naval yard in the Russian Far East is currently decommissioning two nuclear-powered submarines funded by the U.S. through the CTR. The 1999 contract presumes scrapping of three more submarines, possibly four, according to Zvezda manager Yury Maslukov.

Maslukov declared his retirement earlier this year, referring to his inability to fulfil salary payback promises given to his employees. He came back later, inspired by some money paid to the yard by the CTR.

According to Maslukov, negotiations with the CTR officials started back in May this year. "We did not sign the contract at that time as we were not satisfied with the prices," said Maslukov to Vladivostok Daily. "Today the deal has been reconsidered. Good contract – good prices," adds Maslukov.

Nerpa yard satisfied as well
Nerpa shipyard, located at the Kola Peninsula, is cutting three submarines this year, funded by the CTR. One more submarine is to be negotiated. According to Nerpa employees, the money provided by the U.S. helped to cover salary arrears for the three summer months and September. At Nerpa’s water area there are reportedly two Delta-class submarines and one Victor.

CTR forced to look into spent fuel issue
To accelerate decommissioning of the Russian submarines, funding of the actual scrapping is in itself not sufficient. Spent nuclear fuel extracted from the submarine reactors has to be placed somewhere. This poses a serious problem, as the Navy’s storage capacities are full. To ensure that the decommissioning is not hampered by this factor, the CTR has apparently agreed to fund the repair works on one of the service vessels assigned to the Pacific Fleet and designed for defuelling of submarines and temporary storage of spent fuel. In July this year, representatives of the U.S. Department of Defence visited the Mayak reprocessing plant in Siberia to discuss possibilities for handling spent nuclear fuel from the dismantled submarines in the Pacific Fleet.

Nerpa yard at the Kola Peninsula will apparently receive metal-concrete casks to store temporary spent fuel unloaded from the submarines on site. However, neither the funding sources to this project nor the project itself are yet clearly defined. In May 1997, Nerpa put to work a plasma torch for cutting the tempered steel hull plates of submarines – machinery funded through the CTR. The original plans considered the machinery part of a larger complex including a land-based dock with special submarines dismantling equipment. The complex, which was due to be commissioned back in 1996, is still only 50% complete.