[ RadSafe ] The unsolved hazard of damaged spent nuclear fuel rods – Andreeva Bay, Russia near Norway

Roger Helbig rwhelbig at gmail.com
Sun Dec 10 03:55:08 CST 2017

The unsolved hazard of damaged spent nuclear fuel rods – Andreeva Bay

by Christina MacPherson

In 2023, the risky part of Andreeva Bay nuclear cleanup starts

Donor countries agree to fund an additional study on how to extract
the damaged spent nuclear fuel from Tank 3A. By Thomas Nilsen,
December 08, 2017

Take a closer look at this photo and you will understand the scoop of
the most challenging and risky work to be done at the Cold War storage
site for submarine nuclear fuel on Russia’s Kola Peninsula. For 35
years, highly radioactive fuel assemblies have been stored in these
rusty, partly destroyed steel pipes where concrete of poor quality was
filled in the space between. Some of the fuel assemblies are stuck in
the canisters, while some of the canisters are stuck in the cells.

Message is clear: Do not try to lift any of the assemblies before you
are sure nothing falls out.

At a recent meeting in London, donor countries discussed the progress
after the first nuclear fuel assemblies were shipped away from the
other tanks in Andreeva Bay towards Mayak in June.

The experts all agree it is necessary to conduct a whole range of work
to prepare Tank 3A for unloading. Additional €100,000 was granted for
the study. Another €675,000 was granted to study another messy
challenge in Andreeva Bay; the smashed spent fuel assembles on the
floor of the former water-pool storage in Building No. 5, the
information portal Russian Atomic Community reports.

Unloading work at Tank 2A and 2B will go on until 2023 before possible
work on unloading the dangerous mess at Tank 3A can start.

Andrey Zolotkov, a nuclear expert with the environmental group Bellona
says YES with capitalized letters when asked by the Barents Observer
via Skype whether Tank 3A poses the biggest risk in the cleanup work.

Equal to Chernobyl

The British nuclear engineering company Nuvia has calculated the total
radionuclide inventory in the three tanks to be equal to the remains
of Reactor No. 4 inside the Chernobyl sarcophagus. Some 22,000 spent
fuel assemblies are stored in the tanks, coming from 90-100 reactor
cores powering the Soviet Navy’s Cold War submarines sailing out from
the Kola Peninsula from the late 1950s till 1982. Nuvia says it is
some six tonnes of fissile uranium-235 in the fuel, about two times
the amount of fissile material inside the exploded Chernobyl reactor
in Ukraine.

Tank 3A does also pose the highest risk for radiation doses to working
personell and ways to do the job with robotics has to be developed.
Nobody want people to stay too long near the destroyed assemblies and
get exposed.

Another deemed challenging job ahead is to locate and secure the six
damaged spent fuel elements on the floor of Building No. 5 in Andreeva
Bay. The building served as a storage-pool for the spent fuel
assemblies before 1982, but due to a water-leak and rusty wires, many
fuel assemblies fell to the floor. That was the reason why the
assemblies were hastily moved over to the tanks 2A, 2B and 3A. In that
process, however, six damaged fuel assemblies and some uranium powder
from others were left on the floor. Today, they pose a serious
radiation hazard risk.

Funding from Europe and Canada

The nuclear cleanup work in Andreeva Bay on the Barents Sea coast is
financed by the so-called Northern Window of the Northern Dimension
Environmental Partnership (NDEP), a cooperative program with Russia’s
State Nuclear Corporation Rosatom.

Norway has over the last two decades financed infrastructure
improvements in Andreeva Bay making the removal of spent nuclear fuel

The NDEP’s funded work started in 2003. Additional to the European
Union, nuclear legacy cleanup work in North-West Russia is funded by
Sweden, Finland, Belgium, France, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands,
Norway, Italy and the United Kingdom.

Andreeva Bay is located about 55 kilometers from Russia’s border to
Norway in the north.

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