US supports Russian reprocessing

27 August 1999

Russia The US has funded the transport of four train loads of spent fuel to the reprocessing facility at Mayak this year, according to Norway’s Bellona Foundation. The work was carried out under the Co-operative Threat Reduction (CTR) programme signed by the US and Russia in 1992 and it required a waiver of US law prohibiting the country from supporting reprocessing activities elsewhere. The shipments contained spent fuel from six submarines based in Russia.

According to Mayak’s Yevgeny Ryzhkov, MINATOM and the US Department of Defence signed an agreement on US participation in reprocessing spent fuel from Russian submarines following negotiations between the two parties and Mayak representatives.

The first objective of the CTR was to supply Russian shipyards with dismantling equipment. In 1997 the programme’s began to be used to pay workers’ salaries and the aim now is to dismantle 31 submarines.

It soon became clear that Russia did not have the infrastructure to ship fuel from the scrapped submarines to Mayak and that the storage facilities were full and in a poor state of repair. In 1998 CTR told US policy makers that to continue dismantling work fuel shipments to Mayak must be funded. Before Russia’s economic crisis a shipment cost $1-1.5 million: since the rouble devaluation it has costed around $500 000.

Following a waiver to US law granted last December the first spent fuel shipment took place in April. Each train can carry 735 fuel assemblies (three reactor cores). US permission to reprocess fuel is limited to 15 strategic submarines and is conditional on developing and licensing of a dry storage facility for the rest of the submarines.



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