UK Aid To Russian Nuclear
Clean-Up Is Drop In The Ocean
LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's pledge of $4.8 million in aid to help Russia deal with the nuclear waste from its decommissioned submarines is only a miniscule amount of the total estimated clean-up costs.
The cost of decommissioning one submarine alone can amount to $4 million, a December 1998 document from the Foreign Office showed.
The same document said that the cost of decommissioning about 100 Russian submarines, defueling, clearing waste and spent fuel would run into billions of dollars and take 30-40 years to complete.
"It is estimated that nearly $100,000 million would be required to scrap all submarines presently out of service," the report said.
Foreign Secretary Robin Cook announced the aid on Wednesday during a visit to Murmansk, home of Russia's Northern Fleet.
Although Britain's latest offering is only a fraction of how much it will cost, Britain's commitment to helping Russia with its massive nuclear waste problem goes back years.
Since the break up of the Soviet Union, British Nuclear Fuels Ltd (BNFL), the state-owned nuclear group, has had links with Russia and participated in a number of waste projects.
The company is currently engaged in design work with Norwegian, Swedish and Finnish partners, on a store for spent submarine fuel, the legacy of the Soviet Union's drive to have a large nuclear submarine fleet.
The interim storage site is proposed to be constructed at Mayak, central Russia, and is estimated will cost around $100 million. BNFL is also working with the Norwegian government to tackle the problems of waste at the Russian navy's Andreeva Bay facility and has a team at the Leningrad Nuclear Power Station.
Overall BNFL reckons that the potential value of clean-up work in northwest Russia alone is worth around $400 million, a spokesman said.
The cost of sorting out Russia's nuclear waste is likely to be massive owing to the haphazard way spent fuel was treated.
One extreme example is the 15,000 tonne barge Lepse. Built in 1936 and sunk during World War II the barge was later refloated and used to store nuclear fuel until 1981. The vessel is stationed in Murmansk harbor where it emits dozens of kilowatts of residual heat from fission production decay, the Foreign Office report said. ( (c) 1999 Reuters)