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Russia Unveils Nuke Unloading Facility

Russia on Friday unveiled a U.S.-funded facility in the Arctic port of Severodvinsk for unloading spent nuclear fuel from decommissioned submarines.

U.S. Sen. Richard Lugar attended the ceremony. He is visiting Russia to oversee Washington's efforts to help Russia secure and eliminate weapons of mass destruction, the U.S. Embassy said.

The facility will enable the Zvyozdochka disposal plant to unload spent nuclear fuel from the reactors of four Delta and two Typhoon submarines each year, the Interfax news agency reported.

"Unloading spent nuclear fuel is the most complex issue in the disposal of nuclear submarines," plant spokeswoman Nadezhda Shcherbinina told Interfax.

Officials did not say where the nuclear waste would end up, but in the past Russian officials have said they plan to build a dumpsite on an Arctic archipelago to store spent nuclear fuel from decommissioned submarines.

Lugar, a Republican from Indiana, co-authored a decade-long U.S. program to help contain the threat of weapons of mass destruction in the former Soviet Union.

The Nunn-Lugar program, also named after former U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn, has helped Russia in costly efforts to dismantle its nuclear weapons, secure nuclear and chemical stockpiles and find civilian jobs for military scientists.

Earlier Friday, Lugar visited the Northern Machine-Building Shipyards, also in Severodvinsk, where he was shown facilities that make special containers to transport spent nuclear fuel, Interfax said.

The unveiling of the Severodvinsk facility followed a presentation for foreign diplomats earlier this week of a chemical weapons destruction plant in the Volga River town of Gorny.

On Friday, Lugar is scheduled to visit the Atomflot Shipyard near the Arctic city of Murmansk to view radiological monitoring and waste disposal programs.