Submarines: October 14, 2003

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Britain has agreed to give Russia $352 million to assist in the effort to safely dismantle 120 decommissioned Russian nuclear submarines. These boats are sitting at dockside, some partially sunk, in bases around the Kola peninsula (off Russia's northern coast, next to Finland.) An agreement by the major industrialized nations, to pay several billion dollars to help clean up the old Russian nuclear subs, was made in 2002. But it was stalled when Russia insisted that donated equipment brought in for the clean up pay import taxes. The donors objected to the additional expense and the Russians only recently backed off. European nations in particular are alarmed at the sorry state of the once mighty Russian submarine fleet because, if many of these subs are not dismantled soon, they will flood and there is danger that radioactivity from their turned off reactors will pollute the rich fishing grounds off Russias north coast. Even with the clean-up program under way, it's expected to take six years to complete. The British money is being used to build a facility to store the reactors taken from the old subs. The Russian sub fleet went into decline when the Cold War ended in 1991 and Russia could not longer afford to operate, much less dismantle, most of their submarines. This was compounded by the Russian policy, before the Cold War ended, of keeping older nuclear subs in service long after Western navies would have retired them. Even then, the Russians have made no provisions for safely dismantling older, inoperable, subs. Some were simply towed out and sunk in deep Arctic waters. 


 


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