The dismantling of these thermoelectric generators
(RTG - Radio-isotope Thermal Generators) will allow safe final storage of the radioactive sources with which they are equipped. The generators supply power to Russian navigation beacons in remote areas (the northern region in particular). These sources are gradually being replaced with alternative energy sources (solar and/or wind power), which do not present a risk of misappropriation.
They are removed by helicopter or boat during annual campaigns, the length of which is determined by the weather (polar nights, no ice, etc.). The RTGs are then assembled into batches and transported by road or rail (in special trucks and railway wagons) to specialised facilities in the Moscow area (NIIFTA or Izotop). The sources are then removed from the RTGs and repackaged in transport casks (modified RTGs can be used as packaging). They are then transferred to the Mayak plant, where they are immobilized in vitrified waste containers and temporarily stored awaiting final disposal.
The main players working in cooperation with the Russian Federation in this field are Norway, the United States and Canada.
France has contributed 700,000 € to a programme led by Norway. CEA has also implemented a bilateral cooperation project with ROSATOM, resulting in the successful removal of four high-power RTGs (each equipped with six radioactive sources) from the Baltic Sea area in late 2009. A second operation for the removal of 12 other RTGs has been achieved in December 2010. This operation will have resulted in the complete removal of RTGs from Baltic Sea, in collaboration with Norway, Sweden and Finland.