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Evaluation of Dumped Icebreaker Reactor Fuel


Search, Assessment of Condition and Methods to Protect the Packing Dumped in the Kara Sea and Containing Nuclear Fuel of the Icebreaker "Lenin" Emergency Reactor

Tech Area / Field

  • ENV-RWT/Radioactive Waste Treatment/Environment
  • ENV-WPC/Water Pollution and Control/Environment

8 Project completed

Registration date

Completion date

Senior Project Manager
Kulikov G G

Leading Institute
CDB LAZURIT, Russia, N. Novgorod reg., N. Novgorod

Supporting institutes

  • Scientific & Production Association “Typhoon”, Russia, Kaluga reg., Obninsk


  • Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority, Finland, Helsinki\nLockheed Martin Corporation / Perry Technologies, USA, FL, Riviera Beach\nNorwegian Radiation Protection Authority / Statens Stralevern, Norway, Osteras\nNational Nuclear Corporation, UK, Warrington

Project summary

The objective of this project is search and survey of the dumped packing with nuclear fuel containing the screening assembly of the emergency reactor of the icebreaker "Lenin". This packing remains uncontrolled at the bottom in the inshore shallow water area of the Kara Sea, where there is a high probability of its loss of tightness due to collision with drifting ice formations and as a result of movement along the bottom under the impact of stormy waves and currents.

Another important objective of the project is conduct of technical and economic assessments of various options to protect the container from destruction and to eliminate the environmental radiological contamination hazard.

The 350-ton packing has been made as a horizontal carbon- steel pontoon with an in-welded caisson made of stainless steel. The screening assembly has been placed inside the caisson. The free space has been filled with a solidifying mixture based on furfurol. The caisson top was secured by a flat cover welded to it. The space in the pontoon hull around the caisson (further on referred to as "container" or "fuel container") has been filled with cerpentinite concrete.

By assessment, the packing activity at the time of dumping in November, 1967 was 8.8×1015 Bq. Earlier the IAEA (IASAP project) and the European Commission (Kara Sea project) have independently concluded, that the maximum contribution of radioactivity release to the environment from the performed dumping, as expected, will be made by the fuel container of the nuclear-powered icebreaker "Lenin" as a result of its loss of tightness due to natural corrosion of its protective barriers approximately in 2300-3500. In both studies a recommendation has been made to continue regular monitoring of the dumped objects and the local environment condition.

While conducting this research, the experts have assumed (based on the available data), that the pontoon with the nuclear container has been located at 50 m depth in the Tsivolky bay of the Novaya Zemlya Archipelago, this bay being sheltered from waves and drifting ice.

The 1993 Russian-Norwegian cruise failed to locate the pontoon in the Tsivolki bay.

In 1998, while project 101B-96, ISTC, progressed (the leading institute – CDB Lazurit) new documentary-proven information supported by the Defence Ministry of Russian Federation was obtained about location of the dumped pontoon somewhat 220 km southwards from the Tsivolki bay, its co-ordinates being 72 °:22’:02’’ N, 55 °:32’:54’’ E.

According to this information the pontoon could have been placed in the shallow coastal open sea area where powerful mechanical impact on the packing is likely to take place due to climatic conditions. The objective of 2000 studies of CDB Lazurit in project 101.3, ISTC, was to estimate behaviour of the packing at the bottom, while it is exposed to the external impact of waves, currents and ice formations. These studies have resulted in the conclusion about a likelihood of the weld destruction and breaking away of the non-protected container cover at any moment in case of unfavorable combination of natural factors.

The urgency of the submitted project is evident.

It is planned to achieve the project goals by arrangement of a marine expedition to the area of a supposed location of the packing on a research vessel belonging to the Federal Service of Hydrometeorology and Environmental Monitoring, RF (Roshydromet). With a view of this the vessel will be additionally equipped with special hydro-acoustic search facilities, underwater robotics, underwater TV-cameras, water samplers, bottom sediment and biota samplers, a and g-spectrometers and b-radiometers.

Russian and foreign scientists and experts will be engaged in the cruise.

The expedition will be preceded by a preparation phase aimed at development and agreement with Russian Federal agencies of the detailed expedition plan. Contracts will be concluded for the vessel and research equipment lease. A plan of the vessel retrofit will be developed, etc. After the expedition some phases will be required for processing of the results and analysis of the expedition information, mathematical modelling of the processes and execution of the Feasibility Study of various versions to protect the environment from the radioactive contamination hazard.

At the final stage of the project it is expedient to conduct an International Seminar in order to exchange opinions and to develop a consolidated position of scientists in terms of methods to solve the problem to protect the container from destruction.

The scheduled project duration is 15 months. In order to be in-time to conduct the expedition during the weather window in the Kara Sea (July-August, 2002) it is necessary to solve all financial and organisational issues in the Autumn of 2001 under the condition of approval by the ISTC Governing Board, to start practical work at the project not later than in February 2002 and to conduct an International Seminar in February-March 2003.

The leading institute, the Lazurit Central Design Bureau, for more than 40 years has been the head design agency in the country in charge of development of underwater means for the Search -and- Rescue Service of the Navy, its experts have participated in the at-sea operations to search and recover sunken items of mine and- torpedo armament, submarines and flying vehicles.

The Typhoon Scientific and Production Association possesses a vast professional experience to conduct such expeditions. In 1992- 1994 three Russian-Norwegian cruises to the nuclear waste dumping sites were conducted in the areas adjacent to the eastern coast of the Novaya Zemlya Archipelago. Some participants of the above-stated expeditions from Typhoon and from the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority have agreed to participate in the currently submitted ISTC project and in the expedition, which will be the climax of the project.

Expected results.

The following will have been conducted upon the project completion:

1. Expedition materials will have been acquired and processed and together with a special report will have been submitted to the ISTC.

2. Final Technical Report of the project as a whole will have been submitted to the ISTC.

3. An International Seminar will have been conducted.

4. A Memorandum of scientists on the hazard assessment of radiological contamination of the environment during destruction of the container with nuclear fuel of the icebreaker "Lenin" and methods of its protection will have been submitted to the governmental agencies of Russia and to the international agencies.

Mainly experts and scientists from two organisations, CDB Lazurit and SPA Typhoon will participate in the work. Also, experts from the Experimental Machine-Building Design Bureau (OKBM) of Minatom, Russian Federation, Nizhny Novgorod; Scientific-Research Design-and-Technological Bureau (NIIPTB) Onega, Severodvinsk; State Oceanographic Institute (GOIN) Moscow; RRC Kurchatov Institute, Moscow; Medical Service and Institutes of the Navy; Polar Foundation; All-Russian Research Institute of Nature (VNIIPrirody), Moscow etc. will be engaged.

Project participants believe that assistance and support of the project foreign collaborators will be extremely valuable, and it will be taken with gratitude. The Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority (Dr. P.Strand) promises assistance in preparation, acquisition and processing of the cruise information with submission of search sonar facilities and an underwater robot with TV-cameras, and NNC (Dr. M. Dutton) from Great Britain agrees to assist in the analysis of expedition information and development of protection options.