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  • 2021 June 18 13:48

    The Lepse floating maintenance base no longer poses a nuclear threat to the Arctic

    Image source: Rosatom
    The service ship Serebryanka delivered 19 spent fuel assemblies (SFAs) contained in caissons aboard the Lepse floating maintenance base (FMB) to a special FSUE Atomflot storage site in Murmansk, thereby completing the final stage of unloading spent nuclear fuel (SNF) from the Lepse ship. The fuel assemblies were transported in TUK-18 containers, Rosatom says in a press release.

    The unloading and transport of 19 spent fuel assemblies was funded by the federal budget.  Unloading was carried out at the site of the Nerpa shipyard (a branch of JSC Zvezdochka).

    FSUE Atomflot personnel are now tasked with offloading the containers and sending the nuclear fuel for reprocessing. After this, bow large storage package (a hermetically sealed bow-based container) of the floating maintenance base Lepse will be transported to the Sayda-Guba long-term reactor compartment storage facility in 2022, as was previously done for the stern-based container.

    “The story of the disposal of the Lepse floating maintenance base ends [happily] without harm to human health or the environment. The strong competencies of Rosatomflot personnel have made it possible to solve this critical task efficiently. To ensure the dismantling of the Lepse floating maintenance base, it was necessary to specially develop [new] technologies and equipment and make innovative decisions,” said FSUE Atomflot Director General Mustafa Kashka.

    Previously, in July 2020, the Lepse floating maintenance base’s main batch of spent nuclear fuel was unloaded at the Nerpa shipyard – a branch of JSC Zvezdochka. A total of 620 spent fuel assemblies were extracted and unloaded.

    Lepse was built as a dry cargo ship in 1934 and converted into a floating maintenance base in 1961. Until 1981, the base was used to recharge nuclear icebreaker reactors with nuclear fuel. After 1981, the Lepse FMB was used only for storing spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste. In 1988, the base was decommissioned.

    The project to dismantle and dispose of the Lepse FMB is being implemented multilaterally. In 1996, the project was included in the TACIS programme (Technical assistance to the CIS programme), which involved the allocation of funds for the inspection of the state of spent nuclear fuel. Since 2008, the project has been carried out in the framework of a Grant Agreement between the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), ROSATOM, and JSC NFC Logistics Centre (the project’s customer and coordinator). The EBRD has provided 54 million euros from the Northern Dimension Environmental Partnership Fund (NDEP).

    After FSUE Atomflot carried out a comprehensive radiation survey of the ship and preparatory work in 2011 (including docking with partial conversion of the ship’s hull, removal of variable cargo, SNF recovery and decontamination, installation of additional equipment, etc.) the Lepse FMB was towed to the Nerpa shipyard in 2012. The comprehensive radiation survey and preparatory work were in part made possible by Russia’s Federal Target Programme to Ensure Nuclear and Radiation Safety from 2008 up to 2015.

    In 2008, FC NRS JSC and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development concluded an initial agreement on a grant for the disposal of Lepse FMB. The goal of the project was to eliminate serious environmental hazards in the region, including radiation risks, by removing spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste from Lepse FMB and sending it for reprocessing or temporary storage.

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