The first train carrying used nuclear submarine fuel from Russia’s Andreeva Bay arrived to the Mayak radiochemical plant in Ozersk from the Murmansk region on 14 August. The first rail car unloaded in shop 5 the next day, and the first used assemblies were removed from the transport and packaging container. The fuel shipment left the storage facility in Andreeva Bay on 27 June. The used fuel, removed from 100 reactors from more than 50 nuclear submarines, has been stored at Andreeva Bay for 35 years in dry storage units, some of which were damaged and leaking. The base was closed in 1992.
Under an international initiative financed by the Nuclear Window of the Northern Dimension Environmental Partnership (NDEP) more than 22,000 used fuel assemblies from nuclear submarines, stored at Andreeva Bay, are being retrieved, packaged and removed from the site. The process is being carried out by SevRAO, part of Russian state nuclear energy corporation, Rosatom.
The Nuclear Window is part of the NDEP's Support Fund which was set up in July 2002 by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) to pool contributions for the improvement of the environment in northwestern Russia. To date, the fund, managed by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, has received €165m in contributions, with funding from the European Union and Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Norway and the UK.
Over the past few years Mayak’s facilities have been upgraded with the installation of special cameras and equipment for handling defective fuel. Mayak chief engineer Dmitry Kolupaev noted that the enterprise has since the 1980s reprocessed used fuel from nuclear submarines and civil transport ships. “We will accumulate experience, improve and, depending on the pace of work over 5-10 years, completely solve the problem of processing the stocks of defective used nuclear fuel from the North,” he said. Mayak is expecting some 50 shipments from Andreeva Bay.