Partnership activities with Russia
© 2006 Nasa/TerraMetrics/Europa Technologies
removal of VVR fuel
docking an Alpha-class submarine for the removal of its reactor core (winter 2008)
Unloading of Alpha submarine reactor core 910
This former naval base, which is not operational and which has been more or less out of use for the last 15 years, is situated on the east of the Kola peninsula, 160 km from Murmansk as the crow flies (or 350 km by boat which, with helicopter, is the only means of access). It was mainly used for the maintenance of the Soviet fleet's attack submarines, particularly those in the Alpha class, which are propelled by fast neutron reactors cooled by liquid metal (bismuth/lead alloy). The base, which is now the responsibility of SevRAO (a subsidiary of RosRAO), was in a condition that posed a threat to the environment. It also posed a risk of misappropriation of the nuclear material stored there under rather unsatisfactory security conditions. Our project falls within the framework of the base remediation programme, which should eventually lead to closure of the site (by 2020 at the earliest). The site will not be re-used. It will be decontaminated and cleared of all radioactive materials currently stored there (with the exception of very low-level waste).
The following operations are to be carried out:
A radiological and technological survey and a feasibility study have led to the definition of the operations to be performed, the technical and financial resources required, and the project completion schedule.
The survey and feasibility study were funded by France. The results obtained enabled the identification of France's share of the workload, in agreement with other participants, i.e.NDEP, Norway, and Italy.
On-site actions completed to date:
• Supply of personal protection equipment, radiation measurement equipment and two portable toilet units (completed in December 2006),
• Radiological and technological survey (KIRO), initiated in 2004 and completed in late 2007,
• Preliminary design study (OBIN), initiated in December 2006 and technically completed in mid-2010,
• Completion of urgent work required to ensure that the site cleanup phase is conducted under satisfactory conditions, particularly in terms of personnel safety,
• Significant improvement of radiological conditions of open-air VVR fuel storage area, successfully completed in 2007 and 2008,
• Evacuation of intact VVR (PWR-type) fuel assemblies, initiated in late 2008. The last remaining intact fuel assemblies were evacuated for processing at the Mayak plant in September 2010 (nearly 700 fuel assemblies evacuated out of a total of approximately 900),
• Overhaul of dry dock (only access point to the site) and on-site fuel and waste management buildings,
• Decontamination and unloading of Alpha submarine reactor core 910, completed in September 2009.
New actions were initiated in 2010 and will be pursued until 2012, with the following objectives:
- upgrade of Gremikha infrastructures to ensure the removal of approximately 200 damaged VVR fuel assemblies and their transport to the Mayak plant for reprocessing,
- preparation of defueling and dismantling operations for reactor core 900, specially conditioned for immersion aboard submarine in the 1980s,
- preparation for the reception and management of fuel evacuated to the NIIAR facility in Dimitrovgrad (Alpha submarine reactor core fuel) and to the Mayak site (VVR fuel).
By late 2010, France will have funded a total of €32 million for this site cleanup project:
• €10 million for the radiological and technological survey, the preliminary design study, and the supply of radiation protection and personnel safety equipment,
• €22 million for the overhaul of infrastructures and for the removal and management of VVR and Alpha submarine reactor core fuel assemblies.
Updated : November 2010