International projects solve problem of nuclear waste in Russian Polar area

The projects to organize storages of nuclear waste in the Murmansk region, in which jointly with Russia participate simultaneously several European countries, help in solving the problem of processing radioactive substances, the Ministry of Nature and Ecology of the Murmansk region told TASS.

“The issue of secure storage and processing of radioactive waste in the Murmansk region is solved now, the projects featured a few European countries,” the ministry’s representative said.

Hazardous objects

In the Murmansk region, the North-Western center for handling radioactive waste (SevRAO) is responsible for the works on handling spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste, gained by the Russian Navy and during utilization of nuclear submarines and vessels with nuclear engines. The company also works in ecological rehabilitation of hazardous objects. The region has a few facilities, related to radioactive waste.

Among them is a storage facility in the Andreyeva Bay, which keeps the waste from the nuclear icebreaker fleet. Besides, in the Murmansk region there is a Gremikha naval base, where nuclear vessels are repaired. In the Saida settlement, from 2013 continues a program on utilization of nuclear vessels and nuclear engine bays from unused nuclear submarines. In the Andreyeva Bay and in Saida, were completed large-scale projects with foreign participation, which now make it possible to say – the issue of the waste’s secure storage is solved

600 million euros from Germany

The project to build a storage facility for used reactor bays in Saida continued for twelve years. Within that time, Germany invested in construction of the storage about 600 million euros. In 2016, under that project, the region put operational the plant to process, condition and keep long-term the radioactive waste. Besides, a lot has been done to return the environment in Saida to ecology-safe conditions. Under the project, infrastructures of the local Nerpa shipyard were improved, as well as the process of cutting and forming of reactor bays.

Earlier, the Murmansk region’s Governor Marina Kovtun said under that project the region had received a full-fledged complex for storage of reactor bays from utilized nuclear submarines and for processing of radioactive waste. According to SevRAO, the center for long-term storage of reactor bays is working already – it processes radioactive waste from utilized nuclear submarines.

Waste removal from Andreyeva Bay

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For 15 years, specialists from Russia, Norway, Sweden, the UK, and Italy have been working on systems to handle spent nuclear fuel in the Andreyeva Bay and to have it removed from there. Thus, in summer 2017, the spent nuclear fuel would be uploaded and will be taken gradually to the Mayak plant in the Urals’ Chelyabinsk region for further processing.

Earlier, SevRAO’s Director Valery Panteleyev said within four-five years the Andreyeva Bay will be cleared from the nuclear fuel. Nowadays, at the storage site continues construction of the infrastructures to ensure most safe handling of hard and liquid radioactive waste, storage and removal of spent nuclear fuel.

More than 21,000 so-called “bottles” of spent nuclear fuel from nuclear submarines are stored at the Andreyeva Bay, as well as more than 17,000 tonnes of hard radioactive waste, hundreds cubic meters of liquid radioactive waste.

Nuclear lighthouses

Norway and the Murmansk region have been cooperating in nuclear safety for 20 years already. In 1997, Norway and Russia began implementing a program to reprocess spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste along shores of the Kola Peninsula. Later on, other countries joined the work, and new cooperation directions developed there.

In 2014, Russia finished a joint project with Norway’s Finnmark on reprocessing of radioisotope sources of electric energy for lighthouses and on re-equipment of Russian lighthouses with alternative sources of energy. Thus, potentially hazardous objects were removed not only from the Murmansk region, but from other sea regions in the Russian North-West.