The Soviet subs weren’t all that well built or safe when they were operational. Now they sit at anchor, awaiting dismantling. The reactor cores, surrounding areas and cooling water have to be removed before the remains of the ships can be cut up for scrap. There’s 130 of them. 15 have had their reactors removed.
The problems in dismantling them are enormous. Once they are dismantled, what do you do with the cores?
The Russian Navy lacks funds to pay for the services of Mayak Chemical Combine, and at present, this constitutes the most important reason for the drop in the rate at which spent nuclear fuel is reprocessed. Thus there is a sharp increase in the amount of spent nuclear fuel that is stored at the naval bases, including fuel that remains in the reactors of laid up submarines. Specialists and the commanders of the fleet are both greatly concerned about this situation, for in theory it will be impossible to transport all this fuel to Mayak over the course of the next 30 to 40 years. In addition to this comes the spent fuel that Mayak Chemical Combine cannot accept for reprocessing, including:
* All spent nuclear fuel from reactors with liquid metal cooled reactors;
* Defective fuel assemblies, that is, parts that are bent or have broken cladding. This is especially true of the fuel assemblies that are stored in Storage Pool No. 1 at Gremikha and at unshielded locations at Gremikha and Andreeva Bay;
* Furthermore, there are a number of submarine reactors with damaged fuel assemblies, for example, K-192 (former K-131) at Shkval Shipyard.
–Bellona Report nr. 2:96. Written by: Thomas Nilsen, Igor Kudrik and Alexandr Nikitin.