Last three reactor compartments from Cold War subs to be pulled from Russia’s waters next year

Floating submarine reactor compartments in Saida Bay, Arctic Russia. (Thomas Nilsen/The Independent Barents Observer)
Twenty-five years with safe decommissioning of Cold War submarines in the Russian north will come to an end next year.

One hundred twenty nuclear-powered submarines sailing in-and-out from the Kola Peninsula, northwest Russia during the Cold War have been properly decommissioned since the early 1990s. While most of the metal could be recycled, the still highly-radioactive reactor compartments had to be secured for long-term storage.

In the meantime, that meant storing the compartments floating at piers until they could be taken onshore at the central storage complex in Saida Bay, north of Murmansk on the coast of the Barents Sea.

In 2017, the Barents Observer reported that 15 compartments were still kept afloat.

Today, only three reactor compartments remain and they will be taken onshore in 2019, Izvestia reports (in Russian) with reference to the northwestern branch of RosRao, Russia’s state owned company for handling radioactive materials.

The three compartments are today stored at piers in Saida Bay, while 117 compartments are stored on the huge concrete pad.

Radioactive contaminated reactor compartments are stored side-by-side at the pad in Saida Bay. (Thomas Nilsen / The Independent Barents Observer)
Saving the Kursk for last

RosRao’s Chief Engineer says the very last reactor compartment to be taken onshore is the one from the Kursk submarine that sank in the Barents Sea in August 2000 during a naval exercise. The submarine was lifted from the seabed two years later and the remaining parts of the hull were scrapped.

In Saida Bay, the reactor compartments will have to be stored onshore for many decades before their radioactivity reaches acceptable levels for cutting their metal up and packing them to their final disposal.

Related stories from around the North:

China: China opens bids for its first nuclear-powered icebreaker, The Independent Barents Observer

Finland: Nuclear plant construction in North Finland goes ahead despite lack of permit, Yle News

Greenland: Greenland ice holds Cold War peril, Deutsche Welle’s Iceblogger

Norway: Was a nuclear-able Soviet sub near Norway’s coasts during a deadly 1984 fire?, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: What’s the situation at Russia’s nuclear fuel dump in Andreeva Bay?, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Environmentalists praise ruling on nuclear waste site in Sweden, Radio Sweden

Thomas Nilsen, The Independent Barents Observer

For more news from the Barents region visit The Independent Barents Observer.

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