A train load of spent nuclear fuel has finally left Severodvinsk, in the Russian north west, on the 3000 kilometre journey by rail to the Mayak reprocessing plant in Siberia, according to the Norwegian environmental group, Bellona. Mayak is supposed to take 10 train loads a year to deal with the growing stockpile of used fuel from decommissioned submarines (See Nuclear Engineering Internationa, May p38). With the reduction in state funding for this operation, Mayak is now demanding payment for its services – one train load costs $1-1.5 million.

As yet there are only four of the modern TUK-18 rail casks available.

One train equipped with TUK-18s can transport roughly 580 fuel assemblies, or 2-2.5 reactor cores. In 1998, only three shipments took place: the April train load is the first of this year. The slow removal of spent fuel from temporary storage in north-west Russia has some worried.

“We wrote a letter to [former Russian Prime Minister] Yevgeny Primakov, and received an answer from a Deputy Nuclear Minister who promised to supervise the issue,” Leonid Kuratov, head of Severodvinsk’s Environmental Committee, told the Norwegian environmental group, Bellona. “This train is the first result.” Kuratov said Severodvinsk was expecting one more train in May. “Ideally, we count on three more trains this year.”