The Murmansk and Arkhangelsk regions of north-west Russia produce large amounts of spent nuclear fuel. These arise from the Kola Nuclear Power Plant, nuclear propulsion units in icebreaker and container ships of the Murmansk Shipping Company, but mostly from the submarines of the Russian Navy’s Northern Fleet. Many marine vessels have been withdrawn from service, but retain their final fuel charges. There are more than 300 reactors and 57500 spent fuel assemblies. Some fuel has been sent to the RT-1 reprocessing plant at the Mayak. However, most marine fuel remains stored in old temporary and effectively full surface or floating facilities around the Kola Peninsula. Damaged, experimental and liquid metal reactor fuel cannot be reprocessed. This creates special problems for handling, transportation and final disposal. It is against this background that the study reported was undertaken. It was part of the European Commission’s TACIS programme and was aimed at improving the safety of radioactive waste management in north-west Russia. Its prime objectives were to identify the factors restricting spent fuel transport from the region to Mayak and potentially suitable storage and reprocessing facilities. Options were to be developed and costed for restoring effective transportation. Their implementation was to lead to safe interim storage of a limited amount of spent fuel in the north-west of Russia. The north-west region is a large, remote area with a harsh terrain and climate. Fuel is stored in two main areas: the Kola Peninsula and the Arkhangelsk region, which are approximately 1,000 km apart. There is a limited transport infrastructure, but the marine facilities have sea access. Hence fuel movement is predominantly by sea to railheads and then rail to Mayak. Road transport is limited, but important for local linking. Routine transportation of spent fuel to Mayak has been restricted by several factors. These include technical, financial and organisational issues. However, the main ones are a lack of available transportation means in both capability and capacity, problems created by the poor state of some fuel, the inadequate safety of the current storage facilities and inadequate interim and buffer storage capacity. Three main types of shipment option were identified: A) regular shipments with storage at existing sites; B) shipments immediately upon arising; and C) regular shipments to Mayak with optimised construction of additional storage capacity in line with demand. Each option was judged on whether it could provide real improvements in radiological and nuclear safety and/or aid the rapid and cost effective defuelling of inadequate existing storage facilities. An optimisation study was performed considering different defuelling, shipping and rail movement rates, and interim and buffer storage capacities, utilisation and locations. The conclusion was that two options could provide similar good solutions. These were: i) Option A.2/C.2 — regular shipment with interim storage of spent fuel at three key node locations: Kola, Murmansk and Severodvinsk; ii) Option B — immediate shipment upon arising. The final choice depends on the capacity of the Mayak plant to receive and reprocess the fuel and the public acceptability of constructing large new, spent fuel stores in north-west Russia. Given the major uncertainties over Mayak’s capacity to store and reprocess submarine fuel, options A.2/C.2 may be optimum.

This content is only available via PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.