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.
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
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