U.S. might help Russia with spent fuel storage in Pacific

U.S. Energy Secretary Bill Richardson agreed with arguments from the Russian Navy and slightly indicated that he might support the construction of nuclear powered submarines dismantlement site in the Russian Far East. Bill Richardson was touring Russia last week visiting Russian nuclear weapon centre in Sarov (Arzamas-16) and the Pacific Fleet and holding negotiations with top Russian officials, including Commander of the Russian Navy Admiral Kuroedov.

The major part of the visit to the Pacific Fleet was focused on Department of Energy’s nuclear material protection, control and accounting (MPC&A) program. Richardson took part in a commissioning ceremony of site no. 34 located in Shkotovo. The site was originally built to store fresh nuclear fuel but was not in use since 80-s due to bad quality of construction. DoE had refurbished the site and supplied with security systems.

The security system protects the fresh uranium fuel against insider and outsider theft. “This will help better safeguard nuclear materials and keep them from falling into the wrong hands,” said Richardson.

Similar project was fulfilled last year in the Russian Northern Fleet, where DoE paid both security upgrade of storage for fresh nuclear fuel located not far from Severomorsk and the ship PM-63, used for storage and transport of both fresh and spent nuclear fuel.

Richardson was also handed a Russian plan for the storage facility for spent nuclear fuel from general purpose submarines, but he did not commit to anything other than consider carefully support to the construction of such facility. As far as Bellona web knows, one condition for U.S. support is that the composition of the fuel on decommissioned submarines is made available to the United States.

On august 2 this year, the U.S. Congress passed a public law, opening for possible U.S. assistance to decommissioning Russian multi-purpose submarines. Currently, the United States Government makes a study on the issue in order to find out whether or not, such submarines pose a threat to national security.

Richardson also opened two storage facilities for liquid radioactive waste in Primorye. The two facilities are located in the bay of Chazhma and Konyushkov.