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Nuclear disarmament, safe disposal of

nuclear materials or new weapons developments?

Where are the national laboratories going?
Villa Erba, Cernobbio-Como, Italy, 2-4 July 1998

Forum of the UNESCO International School of Science for Peace

Conclusions and Recommendations

Conclusions    Back to top

During the Cold War the development of technologies related to production and application of radioactive materials was not efficiently accompanied by a solution to the problem of managing the radioactive waste produced as a result of implementation of such technologies. Therefore, the main part of waste accumulated with no preliminary classification and preparation. As a result, significant areas have been alienated to store the radioactive wastes and there is a possibility of uncontrolled release of radionuclides into the environment.

A special place in this problem is occupied by the decommissioning of the nuclear-powered submarines and surface ships, nuclear icebreakers and vessels for technological maintenance of the nuclear-powered fleet. While nuclear power plant decommissioning occurs episodically at the moment, nuclear-powered submarine decommissioning has turned into a global ecological problem.

Furthermore, the experience gained from the decommissioning and utilization of the nuclear-powered submarines can be useful in determining the strategy and technical policy for decommissioning the industrial nuclear-powered submarines. Therefore, it is interesting to generalize and analyse the world experience in the decommssioning of nuclear-powered submarines.

The problem is particularly serious in the Russian Federation where the number of decommissioned nuclear-powered submarines, in accordance with the strategic arms reduction treaties START and START-II(1) and owing to resource exhaustion, is at the moment over 150 and the number will continue to grow in future. At the moment, the decommissioned vessels are on the sites of major fleet bases, on deposit sites, in the territories of the Navy and industrial ship-repairing plants involved in the utilization activity. As a consequence, there are serious risks of radioactive pollution of the environment and, in case of fuel leaking (60% of the decommissioned nuclear-powered submarines still have fuel inside), of a significant radioactive contamination of the sea on an international scale.

The Forum stressed the urgent need to consider and compare, in their ecological and economic aspects, possible technical solutions for storage of the unloaded spent nuclear fuel as well as the reprocessing of the materials to be recycled derived from the nuclear-powered submarines decommissioning. Accordingly, a 'key-study' on these issues has been recommended by the participants in the Forum.

Recommendation    Back to top

A key-study is recommended, the aims of which should be to:

  • generalize and critically analyse the available data on the problem of utilization of the nuclear submarines and nuclear-powered civil vessels; to determine the priority tasks and approaches to their optimal solution;

  • assess the ecological risks and investigate the ecological consequences related to the long-term on-float storage of the decommissioned nuclear-powered submarines and to all following stages of their disposal;

  • ground the recommendations for minimization of the nuclear and radiation risks of the long-term storage of the spent nuclear fuel in the reactors of the decommissioned nuclear-powered submarines;

  • suggest the strategy for quick disposal of spent nuclear fuel providing reliable and timely isolation from the environment at all stages of management;

  • compare technical, economic and ecological aspects of various approaches and technologies for managing liquid and solid radioactive wastes;

  • ground the optimal methods for recycling radioactive construction materials aimed at the compactification of the waste to be buried.

The key-study conclusions could be relevant for the Russian Government, for the ecological international organizations and for the enterprises that are responsible for the scientific/technical management of storage, transportation and recycling of radioactive wastes.

(1) Treaty between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms, signed on 31 July 1991 in Moscow (START)

Treaty between the United States of America and the Russian Federation on the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms, signed on 3 January 1993 in Moscow (START-II)

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