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Bellona Report nr. 2:96. Written by: Thomas Nilsen, Igor Kudrik and Alexandr Nikitin.

The Russian Northern Fleet
Naval yards

Table of Contents

[NFL Updated] [On to decommissioning] [Back to radioactive waste] [References] [Content]

Naval yards

Including Sevmash, there are six naval yards in Murmansk and Arkhangelsk counties. Sevmash is the only yard that constructs nuclear submarines. As part of servicing the submarines, the yards carry out operations in defuelling, refuelling, general maintenance, repair and work in the dry dock where the vessels' hulls and structures are attended to. In addition to the naval yards, there are several floating docks stationed at the various bases. Each of the floating docks has a crew of 100 men whose primary task is the servicing of nuclear submarines between missions.[400] The Northern Fleet also has a number of service ships which assist in conducting minor maintenance and repair work on the submarines. The first refuelling of a Russian submarine was carried out at Severodvinsk in 1961 (K-3).[401]

In the 1960s, naval yard no. 35, Sevmorput, was rebuilt to accommodate nuclear submarines.[402] Simultaneously new yards were built and existing facilities were expanded, including yards no. 85 Nerpa and no. 10 Shkval [403]

5.1 Economy and organisation

The naval yards Sevmash, Zvezdochka and Nerpa are all subordinate to the Ministry of Shipbuilding, whereas the Sevmorput, Shkval and Safonovo yards are run by the Northern Fleet and are thereby subject to the Ministry of Defence. The naval yards with their complex infrastructure were products of the cold war, and they now face serious economic challenges. State economic support to the naval yards has been reduced as the number of nuclear submarines taken out of service has increased.

Until 1989, the large Zvezdochka yard in Severodvinsk serviced four nuclear submarines a year, whereas during 1992-1993, only one submarine was serviced.[404] In 1994, no submarines were serviced at all. In 1994, the Sevmash yards accepted official commissions to construct new nuclear submarines amounting to 300 billion roubles, but only 29 billion was actually transferred to the shipyard.

Due to the lack of funds, the Northern Fleet naval yards no longer carry out complete overhauls of nuclear submarines, but are only doing hull maintenance.[405] This constitutes the bulk of work carried out by Navy-run yards[406] along with ensuring that the decommissioned submarines remain buoyant.[407] For each of the individual submarines, it is decided if there are enough economical resources to remove the spent nuclear fuel.[408]

The Sevmorput and Nerpa yards also accept commissions from the Russian commercial fleet.[409] The Zvezdochka yard constructs new ships for foreign customers,[410] including tugs, fishing boats and barges.[411] There may also be potential opportunities of large construction projects for the Zvezdochka and Nerpa shipyards in connection with the proposed development of oil and gas fields in the Barents and Kara Seas.[412] The yards subject to the Ministry of Shipbuilding are therefore in a more viable economic situation than the yards sponsored by the Northern Fleet.[413] In fact, there are plans to merge shipyards No. 35 Sevmorput and No. 82 Safonovo in order to improve the economic situation for the Northern Fleet yards.[414]

Towards the end of 1984, the Russian government passed Decree No. 1399 in which measures for improving the fiscal situation of Navy shipyards and other yards within the military-industrial complex are outlined. A limited company known as The Russian Fleet was established in which the various naval yards are represented. Its primary objective is to get the government to adopt practical measures by which the economy of the Navy yards may be improved. Today the ship yards are experiencing great difficulty in obtaining payment for work completed on the Navy's behalf, even though the work in itself is less comprehensive than before.

In December 1995, employees of Navy yard No. 10 Shkval ran a blockade to prevent a recently repaired nuclear submarine from departing until back pay from August 1995 had been received. The Northern Fleet responded by threatening to cut the Polyarny electrical grid serving the workers' homes. The blockade was broken when the demands of the workers were finally met.[415] In January 1996, the Northern Fleet still owed 40 billion roubles in wages for workers at the Kola and Severodvinsk shipyards.[416]

The financial problems of the Northern Fleet are also beginning to have an impact on radiation safety measures for nuclear submarines moored at the various naval yards. There is no money allocated for maintenance or for the necessary expansion of the storage facilities for liquid and solid radioactive waste. At the Nerpa, Shkval and Severodvinsk shipyards, solid radioactive waste is now stored unshielded out in the open, with no protection against runoff.[417]

5.2 Navy yard no. 10 - Shkval [418]

Navy Yard no. 10 is situated near the town Polyarny outermost on the western side of the Murmansk fjord. The first naval yard, No. 1078, was established here on August 20, 1935, when the floating workshop Krasny gorn was towed there. Prior to this, only the fish processing plant Polyarnoye was situated here. During World War 2, these workshops were used for servicing naval vessels; after the war, several shore-based installations were built and the quays were lengthened. In August 1950, the facility was renamed Navy yard No. 10 Shkval, to be dedicated exclusively to military vessels, primarily submarines. As the first nuclear powered submarines were delivered to the Northern Fleet at the end of the 1950s, the yard was modified for the docking and repair of these vessels. Tenders, service ships and dry docks were acquired, including the floating dock PD-63. Around 1970, the yards were reorganised and partially expanded in order to handle the second generation of nuclear submarines.

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Map 6. The naval yards Shkval and Nerpa are situated on the western side of the mouth of the Murmansk Fjord.

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The naval yard Shkval lies close to the city of Polyarny, and it is here that maintenance work on the laid up submarines is carried out as well as the servicing of second and third generation nuclear submarines that remain in service. The shipyard has a larger storage facility for solid radioactive waste and two floating tanks containing liquid radioactive waste. The nuclear submarine K-192 is also moored here with its melted down nuclear reactor following an accident in 1989.

At the present time, there are two covered floating docks at the yard constituting a total quay length of 700 m. The yard has a surface area of 41 330 m² (446 000 sq. ft.). There are approx. 3000 employees at the yard. The nearby town of Polyarny has just under 30 000 inhabitants.

From 1962 until 1993, repair and maintenance operations have been carried out on approximately 250 first generation nuclear submarines and about 60 second generation vessels. An additional 1515 naval vessels have been repaired in dry dock, including some third generation nuclear submarines. At present, Yard no. 10 Shkval is the only Kola based naval yard capable of accommodating and servicing both second and third generation submarines, and has at its disposal the necessary equipment for refuelling naval reactors. However, no decision has been made as to whether refuelling operations will continue to take place here in the future.

The Shkval yard is capable of processing 3-4 nuclear submarines at the same time. At the moment of writing (March 1996), one nuclear submarine (fabrication number 638), a type 326 M transport for spent nuclear fuel and the tanker Amur are moored at the yard awaiting repair. There are also seven nuclear submarines laid up here. Of these seven, four are first generation submarines waiting to be defuelled prior to being dismantled. The remaining three vessels are Project 671 - Victor-class submarines, two of which (K-371 factory no. 802 and K-488 factory no. 804) have not been decommissioned pending a decision on what to do with them. There is no money to repair these submarines, so they will probably be decommissioned. In the meantime, the task of the naval yard is to keep the seven submarines afloat.

In June 1989, the reactor of K-192, formerly K-131 (Project 645 - Echo-II class), one of the first generation submarines, was seriously damaged. An uncontrolled chain reaction occurred in one of the two reactors, destroying the fuel assemblies. The submarine was laid up at the Vidyaevo base in Ara Bay until 1994 when it was moved to Shkval, for Vidyaevo lacked the necessary facilities to keep the submarine afloat. Because the nuclear fuel in one of the reactors is damaged, it cannot be removed using the normal procedure. The fuel in the undamaged reactor also remains untouched due to the high levels of radiation inside the reactor compartment; however, this reactor is scheduled to be defuelled when radiation levels have dropped.

In past years Shkval Shipyard has dismantled one first generation nuclear submarine, the hull plates of which are still in the yard. There are also plans to dismantle other decommissioned submarines of the first and second generations here,[419] but no funds have been allocated to pay for the work.

5.2.1 Storage of radioactive waste

Solid radioactive waste is placed into containers and stored in an area specifically dedicated to this purpose. Two hundred containers and some large pieces of contaminated material have been placed outside the actual storage site which is full. There are plans to expand the storage facility or build an additional one, but so far no money has been earmarked for this.

Liquid radioactive waste is stored in two floating tanks at the quay. The capacity of this storage is approximately 150 m³ (5300 cu. ft.)

There are plans for establishing a storage facility for spent nuclear fuel in an existing tunnel near the shipyard, but no firm decision has been made. While the yard does possess equipment for the removal of fuel from both operational and inactive submarines, it is currently not in use.

Like the other shipyards of the Northern Fleet, yard No 10 Shkval faces considerable economic problems. By January 1995, the yard was working to 67% of capacity, with 40.6 billion roubles outstanding.

5.3 Navy yard no. 82 - Safonovo

Navy yard no. 82 Safonovo is a Northern Fleet ship repair yard. It is situated on the eastern side of the Murmansk fjord between Severomorsk and Murmansk. The yard is comprised of a number of large shore-based workshops and two large dry docks. One of these dry docks was purchased from Germany in the early 1970s, the other from Sweden in 1980.[420] The latter is the largest dry dock on the peninsula, with a loading capacity of 80 000 tons. It is also used for hull maintenance on Project 941 - Typhoon-class submarines. Safonovo is also capable of repairing other strategic submarine classes and nuclear powered surface vessels. The dry dock there has been used for hull maintenance of the civilian nuclear powered container ship Sevmorput.[421]

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The naval yard Safonovo is located south of Severomorsk in the Murmansk Fjord and has several large floating docks similar to the one pictured here. In this photograph, maintenance work on the hull of a Typhoon class submarine is being carried out.

5.4 Naval yard No. 35 - Sevmorput

Naval yard no. 35 Sevmorput is also a Northern Fleet naval repair yard located on the Murmansk Fjord in the Rosta district of Murmansk, between the nuclear icebreaker base Atomflot and the merchant harbour. Building commenced in 1936 and the yard opened for work in 1938.[422] Today it is one of the largest shipyards in north-western Russia.

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The naval shipyard Sevmorput is located in the Rosta township in the northern district of Murmansk. Spent nuclear fuel assemblies are transferred at the shipyard from Northern Fleet service ships to railroad cars which will transport them further to the reprocessing facility at Mayak Chemical Combine in the Southern Urals. Sevmorput also has a storage facility for fresh nuclear fuel.

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The Northern Fleet's India class (BS-203) rescue submarine with a Project 1837 deep submersible rescue vessel (DSRV) on deck photographed at Sevmorput. These DSRVs are mini submarines that can dive down to 2 000 metres to rescue the crew of a sunken submarine.

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This Echo-II class nuclear submarine is moored at one of the piers at the naval shipyard Sevmorput only a few hundred metres away from the closest apartment buildings in the Rosta township. The submarine has two reactors on board. In 1991, the county authorities in Murmansk prohibited the removal of spent fuel assemblies from nuclear submarines at Sevmorput on the grounds that an accident during this type of operation could affect large parts of Murmansk and over half a million inhabitants.

In addition to several large workshops the yard operates two large dry docks.[423] Until the end of the 1980s, the yard employed 5500 workers, but today the number of employees is much smaller. Due to a lack of military commissions, part of the yard has been privatised, and this part of the yard accepts commissions from the merchant fleet.

Sevmorput has been repairing first generation nuclear submarines since the close of the 1960s, and until 1991, the refuelling of nuclear submarines was also undertaken here. Although the normal time scale for refuelling nuclear submarines is two months, a number of the submarines at Sevmorput had to spend up to six months in dry dock when cracks were discovered in the hull of the reactor compartment. In 1991, county officials prohibited refuelling activities at this yard on the grounds of radiation safety concerns and the fact that the yard is located only a few hundred meters from more populous areas of the city. There are plans to resume refuelling activities at this yard, but only on the condition that safer technology is utilised.

There are presently two first generation Project 675 - Echo-II class and Project 658 - Hotel class submarines in the yard. The Project 658 - Hotel class submarine is scheduled to be defuelled.[424] The main task for the Sevmorput yard is to keep these two submarines floating.[425]

5.4.1 Storage of radioactive waste

Sevmorput has an open air storage facility for solid radioactive waste, and low level waste is stored here in containers. Liquid radioactive waste is not stored at this yard, but is transferred to the Northern Fleet TNT type tankers.[426]

There is a storage facility for fresh nuclear fuel at pier 20, also known as no. 3-30, military unit no. 31326. Until recently, this facility was used to store fresh nuclear fuel for Project 671 - Victor-III-class submarines. However, in November 1993, three fuel assemblies were stolen from this storage facility, and security arrangements at the facility came under sharp scrutiny. It was said that even Murmansk potato bins were guarded better than the open air storage facility. As a result of the theft, all of the fuel assemblies stored here were transferred to another Northern Fleet facility.[427]

5.5 Naval yard No. 85 - Nerpa

Naval yard No. 85 Nerpa is situated in the bottom of Olenya Bay, a few kilometres west of Polyarny. Nerpa was initially subject to the Ministry of Shipbuilding, but was later transferred to Goskomoboronprom, the state committee for military industry. Construction of the yard commenced in 1970 by direct order of D. V. Ustinov, then vice-chairman of the Soviet weapons ministry and later Soviet Minister of Defence.[428] The town of Snezhnogorsk, also known as Vyuzhny or Murmansk-60, is located approximately 5 kilometres south-west of Nerpa, and was established at the same time as the shipyard.

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This is the reactor compartment from a Victor-I class submarine at the Nerpa naval yard. The entire submarine is taken into a land-based dry dock such as this one where the work to cut out the reactor compartment is carried out. Before the reactor compartment is removed from the submarine and set afloat again, all holes, pipes and cable lines are resealed so that radioactively contaminated components from the reactor section cannot come into direct contact with the sea water.

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The naval shipyard Nerpa is situated innermost in Olenya Bay and carries out service and maintenance operations on both active nuclear submarines and civilian vessels. Decommissioning operations on second generation nuclear submarines is also undertaken here.

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Work on the new dry dock at Nerpa shipyard was due to be completed in 1996, but because of economic difficulties, the project has been postponed.

The principal task of the Nerpa yard is the service and repair of second generation nuclear submarines. Earlier, the yard was responsible for the removal of the reactor control rods and preparation of reactors prior to the insertion of fresh fuel assemblies.[429]

Nerpa has one dry and one floating dock, and it also has equipment for transferring spent fuel to the specially constructed Project 2020 - Malina-class ships.

Due to a lack of military assignments and the inability of the Northern Fleet to pay for completed work, the yard has also been accepting commercial orders since 1993. A few small fishing boats have been built here, and the shipyard's directors hope to secure further new business in connection with the forthcoming expansion of the oil and gas industry in the Russian Arctic.

The Nerpa yard furthermore dismantles second generation nuclear submarines. So far, two submarines have been completely dismantled: a Project 671 - Victor-I-class (K-481, factory no. 615) and a Project 670 M - Charlie-II-class (K-479, factory no. 903).[430] A new land based dry-dock with special equipment for the dismantling of submarines is under construction at the shipyard, and will be equipped with machinery manufactured in the United States, including a Hughes Aircraft Systems International plasma torch for cutting tempered steel hull plates.[431] The dock should have been finished in 1996, but completion will be delayed by a few years.[432] Building costs are estimated at 270 billion roubles.[433]

Storage for radioactive waste

There is an open air storage facility for solid radioactive waste within the shipyard 's compound. This facility has a surface area of 500 m² (5400 sq. ft.) and is located 100 meters from the sea. Presently there are 200 m³ (7000 cu. ft.) of solid radioactive waste weighing 250 tons in storage here inside airtight containers. In earlier years, this waste was collected by Northern Fleet ships and dumped into the Kara sea, but it is now four years since waste was last collected from the facility. Hence it is full, and there are plans to expand it to make room for additional containers.[434]

Approximately 70 m³ of liquid radioactive waste is being stored at a shore-based storage tank facility, and liquid radioactive waste is also stored on two type PK-15 barges, each of which has a capacity of 50 m³ of waste. Northern Fleet TNT tankers are also utilised for the storage of liquid radioactive waste.

Plans exist for the building of a small subterranean nuclear power station in Kut Bay 700 meters away from the Nerpa yard. According to project plans (the project is known as PATES-300), the power station will be blasted 50 meters into rock. The plant will have a pressurised water reactor (PWR) developed by the Rosenergoatom Research Institute in St. Petersburg. Building costs are estimated at 200 million USD, with construction to be completed by 2001. However, at this time the plans exist only on paper. The Nerpa shipyard will operate and service the power station which is to supply electric power to the Nerpa yard, area naval bases and the towns of Snezhnogorsk, Polyarny, Belokamenka, Gadzhievo, Olenya Bay and Vidyaevo. The expected output of power is 300 MW and it is the proposed enlargement of the Nerpa yard which increases the need for electric power. Decommissioned submarine reactors have also been considered as a source for electricity production.[435]

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Second generation nuclear submarines will be decommissioned both in this land-based dock and in a new dry dock that is presently under construction. Some of the equipment in the new dry dock includes American plasma cutters to cut through the pressure hulls of the submarines.

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In this photograph, work is underway to decommission a Delta class nuclear submarine at the naval shipyard Nerpa. On the other side of the bay, at the leftmost edge of the picture, is one of the Northern Fleet's Project 2020 - Malina class service ships used for storing spent fuel assemblies from the nuclear submarines. The vessel is listing to one side and is not approved for the storage and transport of spent fuel assemblies.

5.6 The Severodvinsk naval yards

In 1936 the town of Sudostroy was built by decree of Joseph Stalin. It was renamed Molotovsk in 1938 and received its present name, Severodvinsk, in 1958. Severodvinsk lies on the White sea 35 kilometres west of Arkhangelsk. The town was built by Gulag prisoners and on average, had a prisoner population of 60 000. Conditions in the prison camp were very hard, and in the years from 1936 to 1953, approximately 25 000 Gulag prisoners died here.[436]

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Map 7. Severodvinsk.

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The naval yards in the closed city Severodvinsk west of Arkhangelsk carry out maintenance operations on active nuclear submarines as well as decommissioning procedures on older nuclear submarines. Severodvinsk is also the only place in Russia where new nuclear submarines continue to be built.

Now a town of 210 000 inhabitants, Severodvinsk has been a closed city since 1936, with the exception of a brief period from 1992 to 1993. Visitors to the town today require a security clearance.[437] The town grew up around the two large naval shipyards Sevmash and Zvezdochka which are located on the northern edges of the city and cover an area of 15 square kilometres. These are the largest naval yards in Russia and nuclear submarines are both built and serviced here. Since 1992, the Sevmash shipyard has been the only one to build nuclear submarines for the Russian Navy,[438] while much of the work of servicing or dismantling them is undertaken at Zvezdochka.

In accordance with a governmental decree of 1992, the Severodvinsk yards have served as the main centre for the decommissioning of nuclear submarines.[439] Sevmash, which previously was dedicated solely to new construction projects, now also undertakes the decommissioning and dismantling of submarines with titanium hulls. At Zvezdochka, Project 667 A - Yankee class and 667 B - Delta-I class submarines are decommissioned, and the shipyard also repairs and upgrades the submarines already in service. Zvezdochka also has facilities for the removal and temporary storage of spent nuclear fuel. Each year 300 operations with an inherent risk of radiation are performed at the Severodvinsk naval shipyards; this number represents a sharp reduction from the earlier figure of about 1000 operations a year.[440]

The Northern Fleet operates the Belomorsk naval base located adjacent to the yards and it is here that crew members for new naval vessels are trained.

5.6.1 Storage of solid radioactive waste. [441]

There are four relatively large storage facilities for solid radioactive waste in Severodvinsk. Three of them are located within the shipyards, while the fourth is located outside the city itself. In all, these repositories contain 12 530 m³ solid radioactive waste,[442] comprising a total of 4 620 tons.[443]

At Zvezdochka, there is an incinerator for the disposal of solid radioactive waste. It was opened at the beginning of the 1980s, and can process 40 kg an hour of solid waste. It is mostly used for the destruction of rags and clothing.

Until 1991, most of the solid radioactive waste generated at Severodvinsk was dumped in the Kara sea. At times, radioactive waste from the Zvezdochka yard has even been dumped at the municipal landfill outside Severodvinsk in complete disregard of regulations. On those occasions where this has been discovered, the waste has been retrieved and returned to the Zvezdochka storage sites.[444] Severodvinsk generates about 520 m³ of solid radioactive waste a year,[445] most of which comes from the Zvezdochka yard during the servicing of nuclear submarines. This figure is expected to increase substantially as increasing numbers of submarines are dismantled.

Mironova Heights - storage repository for solid radioactive waste [446]

Mironova Heights are located 12 kilometres south-west of the town of Severodvinsk. The storage facility is fenced in and marked with danger signs warning against radiation. The facility consists of an underground concrete bunker subdivided in two sections of six rooms. Known as Object 379, the structure is 14.89 meters long and 5.2 meters high.

Illustration Illustration, 6 kb.
This drawing shows a cross-section of the storage facility for solid radioactive waste at Mironova Heights outside Severodvinsk. Numerous leaks of radioactivity have been detected from this facility.

Radioactive waste was first stored at this location in 1964, and plans from the very outset called for the establishment of an incinerator-treatment plant to burn and then pack the waste for storage in a nearby facility. However, only the storage facility was ever built. The last time nuclear waste was delivered here was in 1976 at which point the storage facility was full. The facility was then sealed and covered with asphalt. The facility contains 1 840 m³ solid radioactive waste, but there is little information concerning the activity of the waste which is claimed to be of low to medium activity.[447] On August 17, 1963, it was decided to close the temporary storage of solid radioactive waste at workshop no. 43 in Zvezdochka with all of waste already stored there to be transferred to the Mironova site. Information about the contents of this waste is lacking; hence it is impossible to give an account about the total radioactive content of this storage site.[448]

It is the Health Physics Department at Sevmash which monitors radiation levels at Mironova Heights, and levels of 5-6 microSv/h (500-600 microR/h) have been detected immediately above the storage chambers. Outside the enclosed area there have been no reports of increased radiation levels. Rainwater around the storage site is checked periodically. Radiation above the background levels of 0.2 microSv/h (20 microR/h) have not been detected in the nearby rivers Solza, Rassoha and Shirshema. However there are some test samples indicating that the storage chambers are not absolutely tight. In 1991, a hatch above one of the storage sections was opened and the cavity allowed to fill with rainwater. The activity of this water was measured to 10² - 105 Bq/l of 137Cs and up to 10² Bq/l of 60Co. Activity levels varied by a factor of up to 60 in the different rainwater drainage systems around the facility. There is no stationary dosimeter inspection which monitors the situation on a regular basis. A 1992 attempt to establish automatic surveillance of the water failed when the instruments broke down. Several attempts have been made to secure the storage site, but this has never been done to the satisfaction of control authorities.

The temporary storage facility for solid radioactive waste at Sevmash [449]

There is a temporary storage facility at the Sevmash yards for solid radioactive waste consisting of contaminated equipment from the testing of new submarine reactors. Until 1991, the site was used for the temporary storage of waste which would ultimately be dumped at sea. When this practice was terminated in 1991, the storage facility was rebuilt and improved. Official approval of the facility was granted on May 5, 1992.

The Northern Fleet is responsible for emptying this storage facility, but there has been no removal of waste from the facility over the past four years. According to facility regulations, waste can be stored for a maximum of six months before being sent elsewhere. Current practice is therefore in violation of the regulations set for the facility. In fact, the actual storage facility itself falls short of requirements set by the authorities in Severodvinsk. The facility consists of one closed compartment and an open area where large pieces of contaminated materials are stored. In 1993, 79 m³ of waste were stored here; by 1995, this figure had increased to 216 m³. The total weight of the waste is estimated at 213.8 tons. Storage capacity in the closed section is estimated to be 239 m³, while the outdoor storage area should have room for a lot more. An overview of the waste stored at this facility is given in the table below:

No. Type waste Storage method Number Amount Activity
1. Pipes, tools, clothing, filters. Containers 67 219 m³ 92 GBq (2,5 Ci)
2. Large equipment Containers or in the open 20 42 m³ 1,0 TBq (27,5 Ci)
Total: 87 216 m³ 1,1 TBq (30 Ci)

Table 7: Overview of radioactive waste at Sevmash

Storage of solid radioactive waste at Zvezdochka [450]

At Zvezdochka, containers of solid radioactive waste are stored in a large partially buried concrete construction. Most of the waste consists of contaminated equipment and tools used in the repair of nuclear submarines. Built in 1963, the storage facility is situated close to the shoreline, and contains some highly active waste. In 1995 storage capacity was given as 1.530 m³ while in 1993, its capacity was 1 200 m³. This suggests that either the facility has been expanded or more waste is being stored here than was previously assumed.

No. Description Storage method Number Amount Activity
1. Pipeline, equipment, clothing et. cetera. Containers 271 880 m³
2. Large equipment. Compacted 120 202 m³
3. Parcels of contaminated metals. Unshielded 30 50 m³
Total: 421 1.132 m³ 5,4 TBq (147 Ci)

Table 8: Storage of solid radioactive waste at Zvezdochka

The concrete structure is open in several places such that rainwater can enter, and as a result, there has been leakage of radioactive water from the facility. Eighty five percent of the storage capacity has now been used, and heretofore, there is no comprehensive description of the waste that is stored here. What is known is that the facility contains some large contaminated reactor components with an activity of 11 TBq (300 Ci), repair equipment (activity of 15.9 TBq (430 Ci)), filters (activity of 5.6 TBq (150 Ci)), pipes and protective gear (activity of 5.4 TBq (20 Ci)) and gamma sources used in quality control of metals (activity of 10.8 TBq (40 Ci). Some of the waste is stored in containers that are spread haphazardly all over the storage facility. The containers are of a type used when radioactive waste was routinely dumped at sea; hence they are perforated so as to permit sea water to enter in and cause them to sink. Subsequently, the contents of the containers stored in the solid waste facility at Zvezdochka are not well sealed, and there are leaks of radioactivity from the facility. In response to the lack of order and control over leakage, in 1993 Gosatomnadzor prohibited any further deposits of waste at the facility. Comprehensive technical studies will be required and the facility probably rebuilt before it can be taken into use again.

Temporary storage of solid radioactive waste at Zvezdochka [451]

Outside the concrete bunker there is a temporary storage site for solid radioactive waste. The area was taken into use in 1983. Low to medium level waste is stored here, some of it in containers. It consists largely of contaminated equipment. The storage facility covers an area of 135 by 30 meters and is partially covered by asphalt . The area is surrounded by a drainage system to collect rainwater which may have been contaminated. (Much of the contaminated equipment is completely unshielded). As of May 1, 1994, there was a total of 1 132 m³ of solid radioactive waste stored here, as specified in the table below.

Numerous regulations have been violated at this facility. Among the most serious concerns are the facts that the facility is unprotected, it is located less than 500 meters from the shore, there is no monitoring of the ground water below the site, and the regulations governing the length of time that the waste may be stored (maximum 6 months) have been breached. Consequently, the facility must either be rebuilt or closed.

In addition to the four storage sites mentioned above, solid radioactive waste is also stored in the floating workshops and on board service ships. The total amount of solid radioactive waste stored in Severodvinsk comes to more than 12 530 m³. The table below gives an overview of the total amounts of solid radioactive waste stored at the four Severodvinsk sites.

No. Name Responsible body Amount % of capacity Condition
1. Mironova-heights Sevmash 1.840 m³ 100 Unsatisfactory
2. Temporary storage Sevmash 2.475 m³ 25 Usual condition
3. Storage Zvezdochka 1.530 m³ 85 Unsatisfactory
4. Temporary storage Zvezdochka 6.685 m³ approaching 100% Unsatisfactory
Total: 12.520 m³

Table 9: Overview of the four Severodvinsk storage facilities for solid radioactive waste.

5.6.2 Treatment of liquid radioactive waste [452]

On an annual basis, the naval yards at Severodvinsk produce between 2 200 and 3 100 m³ of liquid radioactive waste. Only small amounts originate from the Sevmash yard, the greatest part coming from Zvezdochka where the repairs and servicing procedures on submarine reactors require large quantities of water. Until 1991, much of this waste was transported away on service ships and dumped in the Barents sea. In the 1960s, decontamination plants were established at both yards. However, these were never taken into use and are now partially disassembled.

Today, approximately 3 000 m³ of liquid radioactive waste is stored in Severodvinsk. In addition to the storage facilities and ships listed below, Severodvinsk also has a permanently stationed special service tanker of the Project 1783 - Vala class, with a storage capacity of 870 m³. Some of the floating bases used to store spent nuclear fuel assemblies also carry some liquid radioactive waste and are described in Chapter 3. The liquid radioactive waste generated in Severodvinsk was until 1973 regularly collected by Northern Fleet service ships.

Storage of liquid radioactive waste in sea-based tanks at Sevmash

The Sevmash yards have five sea-based tanks for storing liquid radioactive waste. Three of the tanks have been taken out of use as they were worn out. Since the metal itself is contaminated, these tanks must now also be treated as nuclear waste. At the present time, no solution for the scrapping and storage of these tanks has been found. The two tanks which remain in use each have a capacity of 24.8 m³ of liquid radioactive waste. The contaminated water in the tanks is periodically transferred to the liquid waste facility at Zvezdochka.

Object 159 at Zvezdochka

Three land based tanks have been established to collect liquid waste from different areas of the yard (called "Object 159"). Object 159 consists of two type A-02 tanks, each with a capacity of 500 m³. The third tank is a type A-04/2 relief tank with a capacity of 100 m³. One of the A-02 type tanks was overhauled in May 1994, having been disused for a while. The other type A-02 tank which was first taken into use in 1965, is not in use and cannot be utilised until comprehensive improvements have been made. This is because widespread corrosion throughout the tank has damaged the metal. The two tanks which are in use contain a total of 181 m³ liquid radioactive waste with an activity of 8.3 GBq (0.225 Ci).

Illustration Illustration, 39 kb.
A drawing of the storage facility for solid radioactive waste at Zvezdochka shipyard. Waste is stored both in containers and in open air. There are also a number of containers and larger contaminated parts standing outside of the facility with no protective cover or shielding.

The special tanker Osetiya

The tanker Osetiya is specially constructed for the temporary storage and transport of liquid radioactive waste. The ship was first taken into use in 1963. She has nine tanks with a total capacity of 1 033 m³ liquid radioactive waste. The ship was overhauled in 1990 but is still not permitted outside the harbour area. Today it is registered as being stationary. At the moment there are 563 m³ of liquid radioactive waste stored on board with an activity of 83.3 GBq (2.25 Ci).[453]

5.6.3 Release of radioactive gases from Zvezdochka [454]

Every year, about 10 000 m³ of radioactive gases are released from the Zvezdochka yard. The gases are released during the repair of naval reactors or in defuelling operations. Some emissions also stem from the laboratories and storage facilities. The predominant gases are krypton-85 and xenon-133. Gas from the laboratories and construction halls is collected in balloons where the activity level is measured. Before the gas is released, it is passed through a number of special filters. If activity is higher than permitted, the gas is diluted with air prior to being released. There is no upper limit to the amount of radioactivity which can be released over the course of a year. The gases from the incinerator for solid radioactive waste are also monitored and filtered. When radiation levels surpass a pre-set limit, the incinerator stops. This happens quite frequently as the filters are relatively inefficient. During the first half of the 1990s, the incinerator was only in operation for one month per year on average.[455]

5.6.4 Storage of reactor compartments and spent nuclear fuel

There are now 16 nuclear submarines in Severodvinsk still containing their fuel. Twelve of them are laid up and scheduled to be dismantled. The other four are waiting to be repaired or refuelled. There are also four reactor compartments from submarines that have already been dismantled. These come from the submarines K-228, factory no. 470, and K-444, factory no. 461 (both Project 667 A - Yankee class vessels), and from K-316, factory no. 905, and K-432, factory no. 106 (both Project 705 - Alfa class). In 1994 four submarine hulls still containing their reactor compartments were towed to the Sayda Bay.

The missile compartments from the 12 laid up submarines have been cut out and the fore and aft hull sections then welded back together. This procedure has left a large crack between the two hull parts (see picture), thus increasing the danger of corrosion and impairing the ability of the submarine to float. In order to ensure buoyancy, pressurised air is pumped into the hulls.[456] However, as long as the nuclear fuel remains on board in the reactor compartments, these submarines constitute a safety risk. (See Chapter 6 on the decommissioning of submarines.)

One reactor compartment is stored on land in Severodvinsk. It comes from the Project 705 - Alfa class submarine K-47, factory no. 900. The reactor still contains its nuclear fuel and has been stationary at Severodvinsk since the 1970s. The submarine cannot be defuelled, for the fuel assemblies are stuck in the reactor's liquid metal coolant which has solidified. According to plans, this reactor will be transported to Sayda Bay.[457]

There is no land based storage facility for spent nuclear fuel in Severodvinsk. Spent fuel is stored aboard the service ships PM-63 and PM-124. These vessels have a capacity of four and two reactor cores, respectively.[458]

[NFL Updated] [On to decommissioning] [Back to radioactive waste] [References] [Content]


[400] Mormul, N., Note, 1995. Return
[401] Osipenko, L. G., Shiltsov, L. M. and Mormul, N. G., Atomnaya Podvodnaya Epopeya, Moscow 1994. Return
[402] Publicity brochure from naval yard No. 35, Sevmorput, 1992. Return
[403] Morskoy sbornik , no. 8 - 1995. Return
[404] Severny Rabochy March 25, 1995 Return
[405] Murmansky vestnik, January 11, 1995. Return
[406] Murmansky vestnik, March 11,1995. Return
[407] Murmansky vestnik, January 11 1995. Return
[408] Morskoy sbornik, no. 7 - 1995. Return
[409] Rybny Murman, June 23 - 29, 1995. Return
[410] Government decree 514, July 24, 1992. Return
[411] Na Strazhe Zapolyarya, June 24, 1995. Return
[412] Severny Rabochy, July 17, 1993. Return
[413] Polyarnaya Pravda, February 28, 1995. Return
[414] Murmansky vestnik, March 15, 1995. Return
[415] Lee, R., State of the Russian Navy data page, revised January 9, 1996. Return
[416] Polyarnaya Pravda, January 24, 1996. Return
[417] Steblin, P. G., director Nerpa yards, presentation of the paper Difficulties in decommissioning of submarines and protection of the northern environment, Severodvinsk, March 15 - 16, 1995. Return
[418] Most of this is taken from Morskoy sbornik , no. 8, 1995. Return
[419] Steblin, P. G., director Nerpa yards, presentation of the paper Difficulties in decommissioning of submarines and protection of the northern environment, Severodvinsk, March 15 - 16, 1995. Return
[420] Mormul, Note, 1995. Return
[421] Nilsen, T., and Bøhmer, N., Sources of Radioactive Contamination in Murmansk and Arkhangelsk Counties. Bellona Report no.1 :1994. Return
[422] Description of Sevmorput in letter from vice director Vladimir Kozlovsky Return
[423] Osipenko, L. G., Shiltsov, L. M. and Mormul, N. G., Atomnaya Podvodnaya Epopeya, Moscow 1994. Return
[424] Murmansk Radio, September 1995. Return
[425] Murmansky vestnik, January 11. 1995. Return
[426] Oral information given by Sevmorput workers, spring 1995. Return
[427] Izvestia, 12 May 1995. Return
[428] Mormul, N., Note, 1995. Return
[429] Steblin, P. G., director Nerpa yards, presentation of the paper; Difficulties in decommissioning of submarines and protection of the northern environment, Severodvinsk, 15 - 16 March, 1995. Return
[430] Russian Government decree no. 514, July 24, 1992. Return
[431] Rybny Murman, February 2 - 8 1996. Return
[432] Steblin, P. G., director Nerpa yards, presentation of the paper; Difficulties with decommissioning of submarines and protection of the northern environment, Severodvinsk, March 15 - 16, 1995. Return
[433] Komersant Daily, June 29,1995. Return
[434] Visit at the Nerpa yard, Spring 1995.. Return
[435] Barents News, 1995. Return
[436] The Rose Isles of the White Sea, Severodvinsk, 1992. Return
[437] Note from Rune Castberg, The Fritjof Nansen Institute, 1994. Return
[438] Presidential decree No. H-1344, November 8, 1992. Return
[439] Government decree No. 514, July 24, 1992 and decree No. 644-47, August 31, 1992. Return
[440] Handbook from the GRTsAS, presented to the Russian government in 1993. Return
[441] If other sources are not indicated, the information is taken from the handbook On implementation plan for handling of nuclear waste and spent fuel on Severodvinsk Territory, Summer 1994. Return
[442] Document from the local Gosatomnadzor (V. Dimitriev), Severodvinsk environmental committee (M. Mailov) and the control committee for objects subject to the Ministry of Defence (A. Gordienko) 1995. Return
[443] Severny Rabochy, March 23, 1995. Return
[444] Document from the local Gosatomnadzor (V. Dimitriev), Severodvinsk environmental committee (M. Mailov) and the control committee for objects subject to the Ministry of Defence (A. Gordienko), 1995. Return
[445] Nilsen, T., and Bøhmer, N., Sources of Radioactive Contamination in Murmansk and Arkhangelsk Counties. Bellona Report no.1 :1994. Return
[446] The information in this paragraph is taken from a document issued by the local Gosatomnadzor (V. Dimitriev), Severodvinsk environmental committee (M. Mailov) and the control committee for objects subject to the Ministry of Defence (A. Gordienko), 1995. Return
[447] Nilsen, T., and Bøhmer, N., Sources of Radioactive Contamination in Murmansk and Arkhangelsk Counties. Bellona Report no.1 :1994. Return
[448] Klimov, A., note, 1996. Return
[449] The information in this paragraph is taken from a document issued by the local Gosatomnadzor (V. Dimitriev), Severodvinsk environmental committee (M. Mailov)and the control committee for objects subject to the Ministry of Defence (A. Gordienko), 1995. Return
[450] Document from the local Gosatomnadzor (V. Dimitriev), Severodvinsk environmental committee (M. Mailov) and the control committee for objects subject to the Ministry of Defence (A. Gordienko), 1995. Return
[451] Ibid. Return
[452] Ibid. Return
[453] Severny Rabochy, February 23. 1995. Return
[454] Nilsen, T., and Bøhmer, N., Sources of Radioactive Contamination in Murmansk and Arkhangelsk Counties. Bellona Report no.1 :1994. Return
[455] Ibid. Return
[456] Sinking Radioactive Nightmare, SVT2 - Norra Magasinet. Return
[457] Information given at a nuclear safety meeting, Severodvinsk, 7 March 1995. Return
[458] Information given at a Severodvinsk press conference in connection with removal of spent fuel elements from submarine factory No. 401, March 1995. Return

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