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The first shipment of used nuclear fuel assemblies from Russian nuclear submarines has arrived at the radiochemical plant Mayak in Chelyabinsk, near the Ural Mountains, from the former base of the Russian Northern Fleet at Andreeva Bay.

 Andreeva Bay, in the Murmansk region of north-western Russia, was a coastal technical support base for the Soviet Union's Northern Fleet. It was closed as a naval base in 1992, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and transferred to civilian authorities in 1993.

 Over 20,000 used fuel assemblies are to be retrieved, packed and removed from the site under an international initiative financed by the Nuclear Window of the Northern Dimension Environmental Partnership, which is administered by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

 Mayak said yesterday the shipment had arrived on 14 August and it had started unloading the first used fuel assemblies from the transport container the following day.

 The shipment, which left Murmansk in late June, is the first batch of about 22,000 used fuel assemblies that are in dry storage at Andreeva Bay.

 Mayak has been preparing to receive used fuel assemblies from the naval base for several years, but already has relevant experience, the company's chief engineer, Dmitry Kolupayev, noted. "In the 1980s our enterprise reprocessed a large number of conditioned used nuclear fuel from nuclear submarines and peaceful transport ship installations," Kolupayev said. "Now we have found a direct solution to the problem of processing defective used nuclear fuel and a significant environmental project was prepared over a long period in the Murmansk region, at Mayak, in ROSATOM, and in Russia to realise the project," he added.

 "We will accumulate experience, improve and, depending on the pace of work, will completely solve the problem of processing the defective used nuclear fuel accumulated in the north within five to ten years," he said.

Source: World Nuclear News