Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Soviet-Era Nuclear Waste Ship Sinks In Russia

A Russian ship once used to transport nuclear waste sank last month at a shipyard in northern Russia, the yard's senior engineer told reporters. He added there was no danger of radioactive contamination as it was not carrying nuclear waste at the time. "We were scrapping it and cutting the ship but the metal gave in and it sank," Vladimir Smirnov, engineer at the Russian navy's SRZ-10 plant in Polyarny, a town on the Kola Peninsula in northern Russia. "It was all clean. All the radioactive waste was unloaded long ago. There is no danger whatsoever," he said, adding that tests of seawater showed that there had been no contamination after the incident on May 24.The ship, named Severka, was used to transport nuclear waste from 1978 to 1993 and then taken to Polyarny, where Russia has a yard for repairing warships including nuclear submarines. The town is closed to the general public and foreigners. The safety of Russia's fleet of nuclear submarines, many of which are rusting in docks along the northwestern coast, has long concerned foreign governments and environmental campaigners. The accident-prone Russian navy, which suffered years of neglect and under-funding after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, has sometimes been slow to release full information about mishaps. The most high-profile incident was the 2000 sinking of the Kursk nuclear submarine in which all 118 crew died. The Russian navy initially said the stricken submarine had only minor technical difficulties, but an official inquiry later found that a torpedo fuel leak had caused a massive explosion which sank the vessel.

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