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Nuclear Safety Cooperation

Feasibility Study and Preparation for the Implementation of an Action Plan - the Safe and Secure Management/Disposal of Sunken Radioactive Objects in the Arctic Sea

Miscellaneous Countries
Benefitting Zone
€ 1,500,000.00
EU Contribution
Contracted in 2014
Instrument for Nuclear Safety Cooperation


Type of activity

Waste Management



Method of Procurement

(FR2012) (Ext. act) Service - Exceptional Negotiated Procedure with a single offer


31/03/2015 - 31/10/2020



Project / Budget year

INSC 2013 Multi-country (Artic Sea) / 2013

Project Background

From 1959 the old practice of dumping radioactive wastes in the sea has led to the accumulation of a variety of solid radioactive wastes including in the Arctic Sea. Such situation is an important issue that causes concerns in particular for the northern member states of the European Union and Norway. Among the sunken objects in the Arctic Sea, there are 2 submarines (K-27 and B-159/K-159) holding 2 nuclear power reactor units each filled with nuclear fuel. While the nuclear submarine K-27 was specially prepared for long-term underwater storage, this is not the case for K-159 that sank accidentally while being towed to the Nerpa shipyard for dismantling. Other objects include reactor compartments prepared for dumping, objects containing spent nuclear fuel, and a large variety of solid radioactive waste in unpacked and packed conditions. As preparatory step for possible future projects aimed at mitigating the risk posed by these objects, it is necessary to carry out initial investigations and to elaborate an action plan for future actions. In that context the European Union, in the frame of Instrument for Nuclear Safety Cooperation (INSC) programme 2013, has launched the Project “Feasibility Study and Preparation for the Implementation of an Action Plan Concerning the Safe and Secure Management/Disposal of Sunken Radioactive Objects in the Arctic Sea”

Objectives and major achievements

The project’s main objective is the preparation of feasibility studies and an Action Plan for the safe and secure management/disposal of the five most hazardous sunken objects in the Barents and Kara seas. For the accomplishment of this target, the project is subdivided into 6 tasks, as follow:

Task 1 – Project preparation and inception Phase

Task 2 - Evaluation of the Present Situation of Sunken Objects in the Kara and Barents Seas

Task 3 - Characterization and Prioritization of the sunken objects

Task 4 - Feasibility studies for measures aimed at the safe and secure management/retrieval of the most hazardous objects

Task 5 - Preparation of an Action Plan for the implementation of all measures for the safe and secure management/ disposal of the objects

Task 6 - Final report and dissemination of results The achieved results are hereafter summarized

Task 1 – Project Preparation and Inception Phase. The project Kick off Meeting was held in Moscow on 25th and 26th February 2016. The quality plan and the draft inception report, prepared by the Executor (Consortium headed by SOGIN, constituted by EWN, NUVIA DSA) were presented to the Contracting Authority (EUROPEAN COMMISSION) and to the Russian Beneficiary (ROSATOM), jointly with the program of task implementation. The relevant achievements reached in this task are:

  • The approval of the project execution proposal presented by the Consortium.
  • The acceptance from the parties to include the “Sunken Objects project” into the list of contracts covered by the Italian-Russian Cooperation Agreement which is in force in Russian Federation since 2005.
  • The acceptance of the beneficiary role by ROSATOM in the frame of the INSC program.
  • The issuing of the nuclear liability exemption letter by ROSATOM to the executor of the project.

Task 2 – Evaluation of the Present Situation of Sunken Objects in the Kara and Barents Seas In the frame of this task, the following topics have been addressed:

  • Collection of the available technical data and information related to the sunken objects.
  • Screening of the applicable legal and regulatory requirements and criteria.
  • Investigation on the available infrastructures, resources and capabilities.

The relevant achievements are reported in 3 documents that were finalized in May 2017, after the examination of a number of archives and registers and the consultation with Russian experts. The relevant results consist in the elaboration of a database of the sunken object linked to a navigable geographical map of the arctic region containing all the information of the objects, an assessment of the legal and regulatory Russian framework and an assessment of the existing Russian infrastructures having the capabilities to manage the sunken objects once lifted.

Task 3 – Characterization and Prioritization of the sunken objects In the frame of this task, the following topics have been addressed:

  • The prioritization and selection of the most hazardous objects.
  • The radiological characterization of the Sunken Objects and Source Term
  • The evaluation of impact to Humans and Environment

The relevant achievements are reported in 3 documents that were finalized from December 2017 to November 2018, after a number of meeting involving Russian and project executor experts.The relevant results achieved are hereafter summarized.

Adopting a semi-quantitative and qualitative methodology, the six most hazardous objects have been identified, all of them containing nuclear fuel: 2 submarines (K-27 and B-159), 2 compartment reactors of nuclear submarine K-11 and K-19, reactor of nuclear submarine K-140 and shielding assemblies of Lenin icebreaker.

Their source term has been calculated and used to evaluate the impact to population and environment based on the simulations of 21 radioactive material releasing scenarios, showing that consequences of these releases could engender restrictions for fishing in some sea areas due to doses to the biota and dispersion in sea and atmosphere of radionuclides depending on scenarios.

Task 4 - Feasibility Studies In the frame of this task the following topics have been addressed:

  • optioneering study for the identification of optimal solutions for the management of the six sunken objects
  • management of the objects, assessment of the existing infrastructures, cost and time estimations
  • radiological characterization of the Sunken Objects and Source Term

The optioneering studies provide an analysis of various options for the management of the six objects. The management options envisaged range from zero interventions to lifting the objects and transportation on shore for dismantlement and disposal. The study considered the effect of a comprehensive set of discriminating criteria like nuclear safety, available technology, economic and legal requirements. Several expert meetings have been organized to identify possible technical dismantling sequences and to evaluate the optimal one taking into account the set of discriminating criteria. The studies also include recommendations for the optimization of administrative aspects and for improvements to the technical infrastructure needed for the future management / disposal of the objects.

The studies were completed in November 2019. As a result of these studies, the most appropriate management scenarios are:

  • The lifting and dismantling for the nuclear submarines K-27 and K-159 - The long term monitoring for the other 4 objects by means of physical surveys or adopting a remote monitoring system jointly with the elaboration of a preparedness program.

The analysis also showed that the Russian Federation has all the capabilities and infrastructures to decommission and dispose the objects, except the capability to lift them from the seabed.

Task 5 - Development of an Action Plan Based on the results obtained in the previous tasks, an action plan subdivided into four chronological steps has been developed and issued in November 2019. The four steps are:

  • Administrative/legal step: for the identification of the responsible Russian authority and the preparation of the legal and normative framework
  • Survey step: for the acquisition of the actual present status of each object
  • Design step: devoted to the detailed design of technical remediation
  • Execution step: devoted to the implementation of the scenario

The total cost of remediation was estimated in about 125 M€ for the lifting and dismantling of the 2 submarines and a cost ranging from 150k€ to 300k€ per year for the monitoring of each of the other 4 objects. The duration of the lifting and dismantling of the two submarines was estimated in about six years.

An alternative action plan for the lifting and dismantling of all six objects was also considered. The overall cost of this variant was estimated in about 280 M€ and could be realized in a period of 7.5-8 years. This estimation includes also the cost of 65 M€ for the realization of a dedicated long term storage facility. The technical sequences are affected by a degree of uncertainty due to the lack of precise knowledge of the physical status of the objects that can be obtained only after the survey phase.

The uncertainty of cost estimations is in the range of +/- 10 % to 30 %

Task 6 - Final report and dissemination of results

A conference has been organized in Moscow to disseminate the results of the project to the relevant international and Russian organizations. The seminar was held on December 13, 2019 with the attendance of the representatives of the following organizations: EC, ROSATOM, European companies belonging to the Executor Consortium that has elaborated the project, Russian Research Institutes and companies, IBRAE which supported the consortium in the execution, Kurchatov Institute and Atomflot, several State Authorities as Russian Federation Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Russian Federation Ministry for Far East and Arctic Development, EMERCOM (Emergency Control Ministry of Russia), International Stakeholders like EBRD, Italian and French Embassy.

Results of the studies have also been presented at the Nuclear Operating Committee Meeting of EBRD via Webex on 13 July 2020 and an overview of the relevant outcomes has been presented at the “7th International Conference on Radioactivity in the Arctic & other Vulnerable Environments” held in June 2018 in Oslo. The final report containing the proceeding of the final meeting has been completed and issued in October 2020.