Northwest Russia contains large quantities of spent nuclear fuel (SNF) that potentially threaten the fragile environment of the surrounding Arctic region. The majority of the Russian SNF from their decommissioned nuclear submarines and civilian icebreaker fleet is currently stored either onboard submarines or in floating storage vessels in Northwest Russia. Some of the SNF is damaged, stored in an unstable condition, or of a type that cannot currently be reprocessed. Existing Russian transport infrastructure and reprocessing facilities cannot meet the requirements for moving and reprocessing this amount of fuel. Some of the existing storage facilities being used in Northwest Russia are unsafe both from a health and safety aspect, as well as an environmental perspective. The removal, handling, interim storage, and shipment of the fuel pose technical and ecological challenges.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), with support from the U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Department of State, and the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Oak Ridge National Laboratory, is working closely with Minatom of Russia in two multilateral cooperative projects which provide assistance to the Russian Federation (RF) in the management of some of their military and civilian SNF. These two projects involve the development of prototype containers and container storage facilities to meet RF military and civilian requirements. Specifically, these projects involve the development of prototype dual-purpose, metal-concrete containers for the transport and storage of RF SNF and the development of suitable storage facilities for the containers. These are the first dual-purpose containers developed for use in Russia. The projects also address the limitations of the existing infrastructure at the various military and civilian facilities. These projects are designed to provide a safe and environmentally sound interim solution for managing the SNF until permanent storage is attained.
There are two prototype dual-purpose containers under development. The first is a 40-tonne container for the handling of military SNF from decommissioned nuclear submarines awaiting dismantlement at various naval installations in the Arctic and Far East regions of Russia. This container is limited to a 40-tonne size because of the limitations of the RF military infrastructure. The second is an 80-tonne container intended primarily for transporting and storage of SNF currently being stored in floating vessels in the Murmansk harbor in Northwest Russia. Both activities also involve the development and construction of special prototype/demonstration concrete storage pads/facilities to store the containers on an interim basis for varying periods of time (a few months up to 50 years).
These projects are designed to provide a safe and environmentally sound interim solution while increasing the capacity for removal and management of SNF from decommissioned RF submarines until permanent storage is attained.