Shipyard director fears radiation accident

The nuclear powered battle cruiser "Admiral Ushakov" is today laid-up at Zvezhdochka shipyard in Severodvinsk. "Kirov" is the former name of the vessel.

Laid-up nuclear powered battle cruise in Severodvinsk has two reactors with spent nuclear fuel that haven’t been unloaded in 34 years.


“One can concede that a definite threat emanates from this ship to Severovinsk and its inhabitants,” says Zvezdochka CEO Vladimir Nikitin, quoted by the blog-site 7x7.

The nuclear powered battle cruiser “Admiral Ushakov” has been awaiting dismantlement at the shipyard on the coast of the White Sea for decades. The huge navy vessel has two reactors, of which the spent nuclear fuel have never been changed or removed since the vessel originally was commissioned back in 1980, the under the name “Kirov”.

“It’s necessary to unload spent nuclear fuel, to bring the cruiser in a safe state and remove it from the harbour area”, Vladimir Nikitin says, adding that the shipyard is in need of all available quay area.

The regional news agency Dvinainform reports that the military prosecutor in Severodvinsk, Pavel Konoshenko, has initiated examinations whether the old nuclear hulk poses any environmental threat to the city. Severodvinsk has nearly 200,000 inhabitants and the shipyard is located in short distance from the nearest apartment blocks. 

Although both reactors are switched off, the state of the spent nuclear fuel is unknown. The cladding around the uranium fuel can be partly corroded or damaged during the years, and the reactors themselves are also likely contaminated with high-level radioactive compounds. An unloading operation of such old nuclear fuel is a risky operation, including scenarios like steam explosion and uncontrolled chain reaction.  

Zvezdockha specialists estimate that decommissioning of such a huge nuclear powered battle cruiser could be 10 times as costly as a traditional decommissioning of a submarine.

“Admiral Ushakov” is the sister vessel to “Pyotr Veliky” that still is in operation with the Russian Northern fleet based in Severomorsk on the Kola Peninsula.