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Unsafety of Russia’s November-class submarines

Sailing These Russian Nuclear Submarines Was Basically A Suicide Mission, Safety was sacrificed for the sake of performance. National Interest, by Sebastien Roblin, 22 Jan 2020

Key Point: The November-class submarined expanded Soviet influence, but at a cost.

The United States launched the first nuclear-powered submarine, the USS Nautilus, in 1954, revolutionizing undersea warfare. The Nautilus’s reactor allowed it operate underwater for months at a time, compared to the hours or days afforded conventional submarines. The following year, the Soviet Union began building its own nuclear submarine, the Project 627—known as the November class by NATO. The result was a boat with a few advantages compared to its American competition, but that also exhibited a disturbing tendency to catastrophic accidents that would prove characteristic of the burgeoning Soviet submarine fleet during the Cold War………

the power of the November class’s reactors was bought at the price of safety and reliability. A lack of radiation shielding resulted in frequent crew illness, and many of the boat suffered multiple reactor malfunctions over their lifetimes. This lack of reliability may explain why the Soviet Union dispatched conventional Foxtrot submarines instead of the November-class vessels during the Cuban Missile Crisis, despite the fact that the diesel boats needed to surface every few days, and for this reason were cornered and chased away by patrolling American ships.

In fact, the frequent, catastrophic disasters onboard the Project 627 boats seem almost like gruesome public service announcements for everything that could conceivably go wrong with nuclear submarines. Many of the accidents reflected not only technological flaws, but the weak safety culture of the Soviet Navy………..

This is just an accounting of major accidents on the November-class boats—more occurred on Echo- and Hotel-class submarines equipped with the same nuclear reactors. Submarine operations are, of course, inherently risky; the U.S. Navy also lost two submarines during the 1960s, though it hasn’t lost any since.

The November-class submarines may not have been particularly silent hunters, but they nonetheless marked a breakthrough in providing the Soviet submarine fleet global reach while operating submerged. They also provided painful lessons, paid in human lives lost or irreparably injured, in the risks inherent to exploiting nuclear power, and in the high price to be paid for technical errors and lax safety procedures.

January 23, 2020 Posted by | Russia, safety | Leave a comment

Environmental and technical worries, as Russia extends the life of old Kola Nuclear Power Plant

One of Russia’s oldest nuclear reactors set to run until 2034

The second reactor unit at the Kola Nuclear Power plant near Murmansk has received the nod from Russian regulators to operate until 2034, making it one of the longest running commercial reactors in the world and raising a host of environmental and technical concerns. January 2, 2020 by Charles Digges

The second reactor unit at the Kola Nuclear Power plant near Murmansk has received the nod from Russian regulators to operate until 2034, making it one of the longest running commercial reactors in the world and raising a host of environmental and technical concerns.

Currently, the longest serving reactor ever is the Oyster Creek Nuclear Generating Station in the United States, which, after running for 49 years, was finally shut down in 2018. Should the Kola plant’s No 2 reactor run out the term of its new lifetime extension, it would be 59 by the time it is retired.

Kola’s No 2 reactor, which came online in 1975, is not alone. The plant’s other three units, which are all VVER-440 reactors, are likewise operating on sometimes numerous lifetime extensions that would bring them to ripe old age before their operations are stopped. The No 1 reactor at the Kola plant, which started generating power 1973, was granted a second runtime extension two years ago, and won’t retire until 2033. The No 3 and No 4 reactors – which came online in the early 1980s – will operate until 2027 and 2029, respectively.

The prolonged operations of these reactors has been cause for concern among some experts, who say that bringing the units into step with current industry safety demands is difficult, given their aging design.

n the shadow of the 2011 Fukushima disaster, which resulted in a triple reactor meltdown, worldwide nuclear building standards have tightened across the board in ways that some fear have left the Kola Nuclear Power Plant’s reactors behind.

Yet more and more often, extending runtime extensions is becoming a general practice throughout the nuclear industry – and not only in Russia. Throughout central and western Europe, there are some 90 nuclear reactors that are currently under review for lifespan extensions, including many in countries like France, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Finland. Six of the 15 Soviet-built nuclear reactors in Ukraine are operating on extended lifespans, with the remaining expected to follow.

For its part, Germany has elected altogether to shutter its nuclear power plants – a goal it hopes to reach by 2022. But the move is proving politically and technically complex. The waste resulting from the closures – thought to eventually comprise some 2,000 containers – must be stored in safely the same spot for 1 million years, and experts are short on ideas about where, exactly, to do that. The costs, too, are astronomical, with the phase-out expected to reach nearly $73 billion.

t is expenses like these that are so deviling to Russia’s nuclear industry, which has failed to build up a robust savings account for decommissioning expenses. Like other countries, Russia collects decommissioning funding through electricity tariffs charged to customers. But unlike other countries, Russia has only been doing this since 1995, shortly after the fall of the Soviet regime and the introduction of a market-based economy. As a result, issuing lifetime extension to elderly reactors offers Moscow a cheap – and what many countries consider a safe ­– alternative to the more costly route of dismantlement.

Still, environmentalists are right to be nervous. Scientific research on how nuclear reactors age – and on the kinds of problems that emerge as they do – has come mostly from studies in research reactors. While these studies have offered some insight on how reactors weather over time, many experts say that the data on how commercial reactors behave in their twilight years are still too inconclusive to be trusted.

But Rosatom officials insist that the extended reactors at the Kola Nuclear Power Plant are safe, and offers figures to back up its claims. According to a report in the Barents Observer, the corporation spent some 4.5 billion rubles – or about $72 million – on upgrades to the No 2 reactor before regulatory officials granted the runtime extension. Plant officials likewise eliminated numerous safety violations and are in the process of eliminating them.

January 4, 2020 Posted by | Russia, safety | Leave a comment

Russia, in fear of a USA first strike may now revive its “dead hand” nuclear weapon

‘s Nuclear “Dead Hand”

Russia won’t succumb to pressure near its territory. National Interest, by Michael Peck 30 Dec 19,

Key point: Russia is acting out of fear that a U.S. first-strike that would decapitate the Russian leadership before it could give the order to retaliate.

Russia has a knack for developing weapons that—at least on paper—are terrifying: nuclear-powered cruise missiles, robot subs with 100-megaton warheads.Perhaps the most terrifying was a Cold War doomsday system that would automatically launch missiles—without the need for a human to push the button—during a nuclear attack.

But the system, known as “Perimeter” or “Dead Hand,” may be back and deadlier than ever.

This comes after the Trump administration announced that the United States is withdrawing from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which eliminated the once-massive American and Russian stockpiles of short- and medium-range missiles.

Donald Trump alleges that Russia has violated the treaty by developing and deploying new, prohibited cruise missiles.This has left Moscow furious and fearful that America will once again, as it did during the Cold War, deploy nuclear missiles in Europe. Because of geographic fate, Russia needs ICBMs launched from Russian soil, or launched from submarines, to strike the continental United States. But shorter-range U.S. missiles based in, say, Germany or Poland could reach the Russian heartland.

Viktor Yesin, who commanded Russia’s Strategic Rocket Forces in the 1990s, spoke of Perimeter/Dead Hand during an interview last month in the Russian newspaper Zvezda [Google English translation here]. Yesin said that if the United States starts deploying intermediate-range missiles in Europe, Russia will consider adopting a doctrine of a preemptive nuclear strike. But he also added this:

Zvezda: “Will we have time to answer if the flight time is reduced to two to three minutes when deploying medium-range missiles near our borders? In this version, all hope is only on Perimeter. And for a retaliatory strike. Or was Perimeter also disassembled for parts?

Yesin: “The Perimeter system is functioning, it has even been improved. But when it works, we will have little left – we can only launch those missiles that will survive after the first attack of the aggressor.” …….

What is unmistakable is that Perimeter is a fear-based solution. Fear of a U.S. first-strike that would decapitate the Russian leadership before it could give the order to retaliate. Fear that a Russian leader might lose his nerve and not give the order.

And if Russia is now discussing Perimeter publicly, that’s reason for the rest of us to worry.

January 2, 2020 Posted by | Russia, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Russia extends license for remote nuclear power plant

One of the reactors at Bilibino NPP has got permission for another five years despite the nearby new floating nuclear power plant now is in operation.
By Thomas Nilsen– December 29, 2019

Just one week after “Akademik Lomonosov” started to produce electricity to the grid in Pevek, one of the three remaining reactors at Bilibino nuclear power plant (NPP) got a renewed five-years permission until December 31st, 2025.

Bilibino NPP is located in the far remote Bilibinsky District in the Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, Russia’s northeastern corner. The power plant provides electricity to the same Pevek-Chaun-Bilibino grid currently under construction as the new floating nuclear power plant.

One of the four reactors at Bilibino is already shut-down, while the other three were to follow as soon as the grid and the “Akademik Lomonosov” came in place. That would likely not happen before earliest by the end of 2021.

The license was issued by Rosteknadzor, Russia’s Federal Agency for Ecological, Technological and Nuclear Supervision and is valid for reactor No. 2.

It is operator of the plant, state nuclear corporation Rosatom, that informs about the renewed license.

Bilibino nuclear power plant started operation in 1974 with reactors supposed to run for a 30-years period. In 2004, the plant’s operational lifetime was prolonged with 15 years, and now, another five years is added to one of the reactors.

Bilibino NPP, which is located some 240 kilometers from Pevek, would need a prolonged license even if shut down by 2022, since the spent nuclear fuel most likely will stay in the reactors for a much longer period before decommissioning work can start.

Russian nuclear news-site Seogan reports that work is underway aimed at prolonging the lifetime of reactor No. 3 and No. 4 as well.

The reactors are of the EGP-6 type, a scaled down version of the Chernobyl-type RBMK light-water cooled graphite reactors. The plant is both the world’s smallest and most remote located onshore nuclear power plant.

In August this year, Rostechnadzor made a scheduled audit at the plant and discovered 19 violations of norms and rules for operating a nuclear power plant. 3 of the violations were fixed on spot, while the 16 others resulted in administrative protocols and sanctions, the agency reports on its own portal.

January 2, 2020 Posted by | politics, Russia | 1 Comment

Russia deploys first hypersonic missiles

Guardian, 28 Dec 19, Avangard capable of carrying 2-megaton nuclear weapon at 27 times the speed of sound

Russia has deployed its first hypersonic nuclear-capable missiles, with Vladimir Putin boasting that it puts his country in a class of its own.

The president described the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle, which can fly at 27 times the speed of sound, as a technological breakthrough comparable to the 1957 Soviet launch of the first satellite.

Putin has said Russia’s new generation of nuclear weapons can hit almost any point in the world and evade a US-built missile shield, though some western experts have questioned how advanced some of the weapons programmes are.

The Avangard is launched on top of an intercontinental ballistic missile, but, unlike a regular missile warhead, which follows a predictable path after separation, it can make sharp manoeuvres en route to its target, making it harder to intercept…….

December 28, 2019 Posted by | Russia, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Scientists track down the source of radioactive plume, – Russian cover-up of a nuclear accident

December 21, 2019 Posted by | incidents, Russia, secrets,lies and civil liberties | Leave a comment

A quarter of Russia’s Andreeva Bay’s spent nuclear fuel stack removed, with Norway’s help

Norway helps pay for transporting old Russian navy nuclear waste
A shipment of 14 containers with spent nuclear fuel from Andreeva Bay to Atomflot in Murmansk took place this week.
Barents Observer By Thomas Nilsen December 20, 2019

December 21, 2019 Posted by | Russia, wastes | Leave a comment

Hazards of Russia’s nuclear colonialism- example South Africa

costly projects such as the one pushed by Zuma typically make little economic sense for the purchasing country
heavily subsidized projects pursued mainly for geopolitical reasons risk saddling Russia’s nuclear power monopoly Rosatom with burdens it can ill afford.
Nuclear Enrichment: Russia’s Ill-Fated Influence Campaign in South Africa, Russia squandered close ties with the South African government by overplaying its hand and getting caught up in a corrupt nuclear energy pact. Carnegie Endowment For International Peace  (thoroughly researched and referenced) 16 Dec 19,


Amid the widespread attention the Kremlin’s recent inroads in Africa have attracted, there has been surprisingly little discussion of South Africa, a country which, for nearly a decade, unquestionably represented Russia’s biggest foreign policy success story on the continent. As relations soared during the ill-starred presidency of Jacob Zuma (2009–2018), the Kremlin sought to wrest a geopolitically significant state out of the West’s orbit and to create a partnership that could serve as a springboard for expanded influence elsewhere in Africa. Continue reading

December 17, 2019 Posted by | marketing, politics international, Russia, South Africa | 1 Comment

United States and Russia are on the verge of a new arms race

Can Russia And The U.S. Agree To Keep A Lid On Their Nuclear Arsenals?  Radio Free Europe, December 15, 2019 By Mike Eckel 

  One major Cold War-era weapons treaty has collapsed. Another, aimed at building trust among the United States, Russia, and other countries, is under severe strain. Washington and Moscow are modernizing their arsenals, building new, more advanced weapons.

By most accounts, the United States and Russia are on the verge of a new arms race, if not already in one.

But last month, something unusual happened: U.S. inspectors traveled to Russia to examine a new missile that Moscow says is super-fast. The demonstration was “aimed at facilitating efforts to ensure the viability and efficiency of New START,” the Russian Defense Ministry said.

The move has arms control observers wondering whether, despite poisoned relations, Moscow and Washington may in fact find a way to agree to extend the biggest — and last — major weapons treaty restraining the holders of the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals.

Dmitry Stefanovich, a researcher with the Russian International Affairs Council, said the inspection of the weapon — called Avangard by Russian military designers — was a demonstration that Moscow was eager to extend New START.

“It is more like an offer: See, we will [give] you transparency on some new weapons and probably some more in the future, but we have to extend the treaty for it to work,” he told RFE/RL. “And we expect the same from you, when your modernization of strategic weapons reaches fruition.”

Large Arsenals

Signed in 2010 by Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev, New START limited the U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals by capping the numbers of delivery systems — long-range bombers, silo-based land missiles, and submarine-launched missiles — and deployed warheads.

As of September 1, Russia had 513 deployed strategic launchers with 1,426 warheads, according to State Department figures. The United States deploys 668 strategic launchers with 1,376 warheads, according to the data……

The treaty expires in February 2021, although provisions allow for it to be prolonged by five years if both sides agree. …..

December 16, 2019 Posted by | Russia, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Docking problems for Russia’s nuclear ships

Nuclear-powered container ship sailed 3,000 nm to change propellers in lack of floating dock up north

After the floating dock SD-50 sank at Roslyakovo yard north of Murmansk last fall “Sevmorput” now had to sail all around Scandinavia to St. Petersburg to find a dock large enough.   Barents Observer, By  Thomas Nilsen, December 15, 2019

Sevmorput” left her homeport in Murmansk on December 5th and arrived in St. Petersburg on the 12th after sailing a distance of nearly 3,000 nautical miles, information from MarineTraffic tells.

The 260 meters long container ship is currently moored at the Admiralteyskiye yard in the Neva River, but will later be taken to the nearby dry dock at Kanonerskiy yard, SeaNews agency reports.

It was late October last year the floating dock sank at shipyard No. 82 in Roslyakovo between Murmansk and Severomorsk in the Kola Bay. The dock was then holding “Admiral Kuznetsov”, Russia’s only aircraft carrier.

The sunken dock was the only one on the Kola Peninsula large enough to accommodate “Sevmorput” and navy ships like the nuclear-powered battle cruiser “Pyotr Velikiy” and ballistic missile submarines of the Delta-IV-, Oscar, II- and Borei-classes.

An older land-dock at naval yard No. 35, Sevmorput, in Murmansk will be expanded to facilitate larger military vessels, like the submarines. The dock is said to be ready by 2021. Meanwhile, navy ships will have to sail to Severodvinsk for simple docking operations……..

December 16, 2019 Posted by | Russia, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Sound the alarm on deadly US-Russia nuclear threat

Sound the alarm on deadly US-Russia nuclear threat, by Jill Dougherty December 12, 2019  CNN, As I looked around the large square conference table, I watched the faces settle into worried frowns. Russians and Americans, several of whom once had responsibility for their nations’ nuclear weapons, all members of the Dartmouth Conference, the oldest continual bi-lateral dialogue between Americans and Russians, founded almost 60 years ago during one of the darkest periods of the Cold War.

For a long minute, no one spoke. Then, one of them broke the silence: “Someone needs to sound the alarm.”
Now, profoundly concerned that the United States and Russia are on the verge of a new arms race, they are speaking out, issuing an urgent appeal to keep arms control alive:
“… for the first time in our history we are compelled by the urgency of the situation to issue this public appeal to our governments, founded on our view that the clear threat of an uncontrolled nuclear arms race has re-emerged with the collapse in recent years of key elements of the post-Cold War arms control architecture.”
Members of the Dartmouth Conference meet twice a year to discuss ways of improving — and, at this point, salvaging — the US/Russia relationship. Several are former top-level military and diplomatic officials. Some are religious leaders or physicians. All are concerned citizens.
They’ve watched as the arms control agreements, which helped prevent nuclear war between our countries, were dismantled — the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty signed by former President Richard Nixon and Soviet General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev, and the Intermediate Nuclear Forces agreement signed by former Presidents Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev.
Now, the New START agreement — the last remaining arms control agreement between the US and Russia — hangs in the balance. …….
It could get worse, both I and other Dartmouth Conference members believe. Neither country wants to start a nuclear war, which would imperil the entire planet, but it could start by mistake, by misunderstanding, by escalation of tensions, as it almost did during the Cold War……..
In their appeal, Dartmouth members say the dialogue on strategic stability should be broadened to include other nuclear powers. But that doesn’t mean that, in the interim, New START can’t be extended for another five years, as the treaty provides. Extending it beyond 2021 would provide some breathing space to work on future global security agreements. We can do both.
New START not only led to steep reductions of nuclear arsenals on both sides but it strengthened confidence and trust between our countries and our militaries by providing for inspections and data exchanges that verify compliance. Transparency is key; Not knowing what weapons the other side might have can ignite suspicion.
At this very moment both countries are developing new, highly advanced conventional arms and delivery systems.
A cyberattack could knock out early warning systems. Both countries keep most of their nuclear weapons on hair-trigger alert, ready to be fired within minutes. Our presidents have only a few minutes to decide whether to respond. A missile launched in Russia can hit an American city in less than 30 minutes — and vice versa. A single warhead can kill millions of people.
……… together, we had just written: “The immediate imperative is extension of the New START Treaty … We see this as a paramount moral obligation of both our governments before our own peoples, and the world at large. We respectfully urge our governments to begin discussions immediately to this end.”

December 14, 2019 Posted by | politics international, Russia, USA, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Floating small nuclear reactors bring serious risks

nuclear experts have highlighted crucial negatives that cast doubt on the floating nuclear utopia.Jan Haverkamp, Greenpeace Netherlands senior expert nuclear energy and energy policy, sees the three main disadvantages of Akademin Lomonosov to be the big human factors risk, its problematic construction, and the pollution of the Arctic region with nuclear waste.

this project is reintroducing a major pollution risk in an area which functions as a climate regulator for the globe – “the Arctic pristine area, which is a very important natural area for the entire balance on the planet,”

Is floating nuclear power a good idea?  Power Technology  By Yoana Cholteeva, 9 Dec 19,  Floating nuclear power promises to provide a steady source of energy at hard-to-reach locations, but at the same time the dangers inherent in nuclear power make some question whether it’s safe enough for areas where help is hard to find. Is floating nuclear power really a good idea? Yoana Cholteeva investigates.

Russian nuclear company Rosatom announced the arrival of the world’s first floating nuclear power plant, Akademik Lomonosov, in September 2019 when the technology was transported to the port of its permanent location in Russia’s Far East. The 144m-long and 30m-wide vessel has now docked at the port in Pevek, off the coast of Chukotka, where it will stay before its commissioning next year.

Akademik Lomonosov will use small modular reactor technology and is equipped with two KLT-40C reactor systems with 35MW capacity each. It has been designed to access hard-to-reach areas where it can operate for three to five years without the need for refuelling. It also has an overall life cycle of 40 years, which may be extended to 50 years Continue reading

December 10, 2019 Posted by | ARCTIC, Russia, safety, technology | Leave a comment

Putin offers US to extend key nuclear pact

Putin offers US to extend key nuclear pact Associated Press, December 6, 2019 Russian President Vladimir Putin claims Moscow is prepared to immediately extend a pivotal nuclear arms reduction pact with the United States.

Speaking at Thursday’s meeting with military officials, Putin said that Russia has repeatedly offered the US to extend the New START treaty that expires in 2021 but as yet he hasn’t heard back.

“Russia is ready to extend the New START treaty immediately, before the year’s end and without any preconditions,” Putin said.

The pact, which was signed in 2010 by former President Barack Obama and then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, limits each country to no more than 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads and 700 deployed missiles and bombers.

Putin and other Russian officials have repeatedly voiced concern about Washington’s reluctance to discuss the treaty’s extension.

December 7, 2019 Posted by | politics international, Russia, weapons and war | Leave a comment

New ship to handle all nuclear waste from Rosatom’s Arctic operations.

Barents Observer 5th Dec 2019, New ship to handle all nuclear waste from Rosatom’s Arctic operations.
The new special purpose vessel will serve the new icebreakers and the
floating nuclear power plants and possible other reactor installations.

December 7, 2019 Posted by | ARCTIC, Russia, wastes | Leave a comment

Russia’s nuclear company Rosatom in financial trouble trying to fund nuclear project in Turkey

December 2, 2019 Posted by | business and costs, politics international, Russia, Turkey | Leave a comment