Japan has expressed an initiative to increase co-operation with Russia on nuclear submarine decommissioning in the Russian Far East. Japanese Foreign Minister, Masahiko Koumura, who visited Russia in the end of May, talked this proposal over with his Russian counterpart, Igor Ivanov. The Russian side was reportedly positive to the initiative despite a controversial treason case orchestrated by the Security Police (FSB) in Vladivostok.
Japan started its nuclear safety assistance to Russia by pledging $100 million in April 1993. A part of this contribution was spent to build a mobile floating liquid waste processing facility, which is now reportedly completed and commissioned at Zvezda naval yard near Vladivostok.
A new comprehensive plan brought up by Japan suggests conducting feasibility studies for the following projects:
- To defuel submarines, which has been laid up with reactor cores inside for considerable time; to place the fuel into transport casks (apparently TK-18 type); to build a temporary storage site at Zvezda shipyard to store the casks.
- To decommission Victor-class submarines at Zvezda shipyard.
- To refit Belyanka-class tanker Pinega into a spent fuel container ship. Two Belyanka-class ships (one in the Northern and one in the Pacific Fleet) were originally built to transport and store liquid and solid radioactive waste.
Until now, the United States Department of Defence was the most active in assisting the Russian Pacific Fleet to dismantle old nuclear submarines. The projects were carried out through Co-operative Threat Reduction program.
Proposal accepted despite spy case
The Russian officials had no problem in accepting Japanese proposal despite a controversial spy case now in court in Vladivostok. A military journalist, Grigory Pasko, stands charged with treason for divulging information on radiation hazards associated with operation of the Pacific Fleet. The journalist faces up to 12 years in prison on charges put forward by the FSB. Pasko’s defence team says the charges are unfounded and fabricated.