Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP)

Completion of Lepse fuel assemblies removal contributes to nuclear and radiological safety in northwest Russia

Brussels, 12/08/2020 - 13:51, UNIQUE ID: 200812_4
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In July 2020, a milestone in nuclear safety was reached in north-west Russia with the successful completion of the final shipment of spent nuclear fuel assemblies from the floating technical base (FTB) Lepse in Murmansk, Russia.

The project on decommissioning of the Lepse FTB is an international cooperation project implemented with the support by the Northern Dimension Environmental Partnership Fund. The European Union is the biggest contributor to the Fund, together with Russia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway and the United Kingdom. The project aims at improving radiological situation and addressing a serious radiological hazard in the region by removing the spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste from the Lepse FTB for recycle or to temporary storage. The project is managed by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). The total funding amounted to €54 mln.

The final shipment of spent nuclear fuel marks the completion of over a decade of international collaboration to address the legacy of the Lepse. The successful completion of works advances nuclear and radiological safety in the region, addressing a serious danger to the people and the environment of the Barents Sea region.

Background

Build in 1934, Lespe ship was rebuilt as a service ship, or a Floating Technical Base, in 1961, and it served as a refuelling vessel for the nuclear icebreaker fleet until 1981. Between 1981 and 1988, when it was taken out of service, the Lepse FTB was used to contain spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste. When taken out of service, it held 639 damaged and distorted spent nuclear fuel assemblies representing a serious radiological hazard for the region.

As many spent fuel assemblies could not be moved, the decision was taken to carve up the ship. This process began in 2012, and in the following years two large storage packages were created, one of which contained the spent nuclear fuel and was moved into a containment shelter constructed for defuelling operations and equipped with removal tools.

In 1996, the project on decommissioning the Lepse FTB got got funding under the EU TACIS programme (EU Technical Assistance to CIS) for a condition survey of spent nuclear fuel. Since 2008, the financing has been carried out under the grant agreement with the EBRD.

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