Earlier this year, the penurious Ministry of Defense welcomed the government decision transferring the responsibility for cleaning up the nuclear waste from the Navy’s many decommissioned nuclear submarines from the military to the Ministry of Atomic Energy (Minatom). Now it seems that Minatom also lacks the money to get the job done.
Yesterday, Minatom deputy minister Nikolai Yegorov said that 157 nuclear submarines had been taken out of commission. Ninety-five of these were in the Northern Fleet and contained some ninety metric tons of spent nuclear fuel. Yegorov said there was no more space to store this highly radioactive material. He estimated that it would take as long as ten years and as much as US$1.5 billion to properly dispose of all the naval nuclear waste. He admitted that Russia could not afford this–a woefully inadequate US$35 million having been earmarked for the purpose in the current budget. Yegorov said that foreign countries were providing as much as ten times this amount–which still leaves an enormous shortfall.
In a related matter, Russian scientists visiting the site in the Norwegian Sea where the nuclear submarine Komsomolets sank in 1989 reported that the wreck posed no environmental danger. A deep-sea diving device took pictures of the sunken vessel and also took water and seabed soil samples. (Russian media, July 29, 30)
RUSSIAN PREMIER, CHECHEN PRESIDENT EXPECTED TO MEET TOMORROW.