Russian Northern Fleet updated

Publish date: May 2, 2003

New section on the Russian Northern Fleet is being launched on Bellona Web.

The new section is built in a database manner containing both updateable background and news stories highlighting the recent developments. It covers all the questions related to submarines decommissioning, management of spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste, infrastructure, international projects designed to tackle the issues of radwaste management and non-proliferation in the Northern Fleet.

Nuclear naval vessels
In the period from 1955 till 2001, a total of 248 nuclear powered submarines and five nuclear powered surface ships were built for the Soviet (later Russian) Navy. The section contains continuously updated submarine tables, decommissioning progress, locations and graphics.


Spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste
There are at least 248 reactor cores equivalent (around 59,000 assemblies), or 99 tonnes of uranium. SNF is stored in onshore storage sites in Andreeva Bay and Gremikha, as well as in the reactors of laid-up submarines and onboard service ships. Some shipyards are commissioning storage pads to store SNF in casks.

A part of the SNF is shipped to the Mayak reprocessing plant in the sourthern Ural. The transportation takes place from Atomflot base in Murmansk and from Severodvinsk, Arkhangelsk region. Both locations have storage pads for SNF casks.

At least 14,000 m3 of solid radioactive waste and at least 10,000 m3 of liquid radioactive waste are stored in onshore sites, onboard service ships, and in the reactor compartments of the decommissioned submarines. The major storage sites are Andreeva Bay and Gremikha. Sayda Bay is the storage place for reactor compartments.

The Navy leadership stresses the fact that it is not the direct responsibility of the Defence Ministry to manage and secure radioactive waste and retired nuclear submarines. On May 28 1998, the Russian government issued Decree No. 518 appointing the Russian Ministry for Nuclear Energy to manage and co-ordinate efforts for decommissioning submarines.

Find in-depth coverage of all this issues in these sub-section.

Submarine decommissioning
Since the mid-1980s, nuclear submarines have been taken out of service. There is a great shortage of qualified technical facilities and a lack of sufficient funding to carry out decommissioning work. The slow tempo of the decommissioning process has led to nuclear submarines being laid-up for up to 15 years with their spent nuclear fuel still remaining inside their reactors.

The age of the laid-up submarines’ hulls increases the risk of the submarines simply sinking at the piers where they are laid-up. The environmental consequences of a sunken submarine are aggravated by the fact that most of the oldest first-generation submarines still have spent nuclear fuel inside their reactors.

The US Co-operative Threat Reduction programme (CTR) has been one of the major (and the only external) contributors to the decommissioning of Russian nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs). The funding for decommissioning from the Russian federal budget has been very scarce.

There are five shipyards in north-west Russia engaged in the decommissioning of nuclear-powered submarines; Nerpa, Shkavl and Sevmorput at the Kola Peninsula and Sevmash and Zvezdochka in Severodvinsk.

And more…
There are other sections present and more is coming up. Each section is supplied with summaries, tables and in-depth articles on particular problems. The section is evolving and will dynamically reflect all the developments in the Russian biggest fleet and problems pertaining to operation and decommissioning of nuclear powered submarines.