Nuclear traffic jam

In September 2012 "Lepse" nuclear ship was towed to Nerpa shipyard, which has no room and infrastructure to decommission the ship. Photo: Bellona

Russian Defense Ministry doesn’t let Rosatom decommission the Northern Europe’s most dangerous nuclear Lepse ship.


The service “Lepse” ship with defective spent nuclear fuel assemblies on board had been towered from Atomflot enterprise in Murmansk to Nerpa shipyard for decommission last autumn. The ship hasn’t yet been moved onshore because the decommission site is occupied with the first Soviet nuclear submarine K-3 “Leninskiy Komsomol”.

The submarine prohibits construction of infrastructure for “Lepse” ship, which can appear onshore by December 2013 the earliest.

“The submarine belongs to the Northern Fleet. Rosatom has contacted the Defense Ministry to solve the problem, but there is no progress. We will not deal with K-3, it’s not our task”, leader of Rosatom project office on complex decommission of submarines Anatoly Zakharchev says to Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

The future of the first Soviet nuclear submarine has been indefinite for several years. Nobody can decide if the ship must be cut for push pins or become a museum.

The Nerpa shipyard needs 50 million rubles (€12.5 million) to handle the submarine, but nobody’s willing to pay for it.

According to Oleg Yerin, responsible for Lepse project on Nerpa shipyard, “Leninskiy Komsomol” is not the only problem for the “Lepse” project. Financial support of future works is another big issue.

There is confirmed financial means only for the first part of the project: for infrastructure construction and cutting the ship. On the second stage the shipyard is to unload spent nuclear fuel from storages, pack it in special containers and deliver it to Saida bay - long term storage of nuclear waste located on Kola Peninsula.

“Financial means for the second part of the project implementation hasn’t been confirmed yet, and this is very important. We don’t want “Lepse” to become another K-3 with indefinite future and no money”, Yerin says.