Old nukes, new threat

the rusting fleet of decommissioned nuclear submarines in Russia may pose serious threats to the environment, say environmentalists and military experts. "The danger of nuclear waste remains critical in Russia's north and far east,' says Vladimir Gonav, head of the parliamentary committee in Northern Russia.

Lack of proper maitenance and neglact have left the fleet of 150 decommissioned Soviet-era submarines in such poor conditions that some are rusting half-submerged in their docking bays. If they are moved, radioactive material could leak out, fear the experts.

Despite the threat they pose to the environment, most of them are likely to stay where they are until the Russian government finds the finance to tackle the problem.

A group of nuclear experts who met at the Vienna-based International Atomatic Energy Agency, pointed out that Russsia's north-west as having one of the world's largest concentrations of nuclear reactors, spent fuel and radioactive waste. They reported that by 1995, more than a billion cubic metres of radioactive waste had accumulated in the Russian Federation.

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