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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 22, January 1998

Documents and Sources

Murmansk Nuclear Fuel Storage Project

'Murmansk Nuclear Fuel Storage Project,' US Department of State Fact Sheet, 20 January 1998

Editor's note: the Fact Sheet was issued following a Ministerial Meeting of the Barents Euro-Arctic Council (BEAC) in Lulea, Sweden, on 20 January -see News Review for details of the meeting.

Full text

"The storage of spent and damaged nuclear fuel assemblies is an acute problem in the Murmansk region of Northwest Russia. Murmansk is the largest population center north of the Arctic Circle and is very close to other Barents countries. Building on earlier cooperative work, the US is prepared to join partners to develop, design, and construct nuclear fuel casks which will allow safe handling and interim storage of spent and damaged fuel assemblies. Some of these fuel assemblies originate from the operation of the civilian nuclear icebreaker fleet, but a growing number result from the decommissioning of the nuclear submarine fleet of Russia's North Navy.

Russia presently lacks the capability to process either the damaged or special fuel at its nuclear fuel reprocessing center in the Urals. Long-term storage of these fuel assemblies which are currently on board vessels anchored in Murmansk harbor poses a serious environmental and public health risk to the Barents region. Since 1996, the United States has cooperated with Barents countries on a number of nuclear waste management projects. This new cask project extends that cooperation and will improve Russian capabilities for safe land-based storage of nuclear fuel assemblies in the Murmansk region. The new casks will meet international safety standards and will be transportable for reprocessing or long-term storage.

Facts

  • Estimated project cost is $1.5 million. The US is prepared to commit $500,000 to the project. We hope other Barents countries will join us. Russia has agreed to make in-kind contributions.
  • The project will take two to three years, and can begin within six months if full funding is identified.
  • The project will fund the design, development, and construction of a prototype fuel storage cask for testing, certification, and demonstration with actual nuclear fuel now stored on the vessels 'Lotta' and 'Lepse' anchored in Murmansk harbor.
  • The funds will also support the design and siting of a small prototype demonstration storage pad for placement of five to ten fuel casks.
  • The casks will be designed for placement on concrete pads for a period of time anticipated to be no more than 25 years.
  • Removal of the special fuel from the 'Lotta' will allow the Russian civilian authorities to transport additional submarine fuel from decommissioned submarines that are still under military jurisdiction and remove fuel now stored under environmentally unsafe conditions on land or afloat in coastal Arctic sites.
  • The cask program will use Russian technologies and expertise a Russian goal is to undertake eventual production of the cask at one or more former Russian weapons production facilities."

© 1998 The Acronym Institute.

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