According to Russian nuclear officials, the Lepse cargo ship, which was once the most visible nuclear menace in Murmansk seaport, will now be cleared of virtually all of its toxic cargo by the beginning of next year.

The Lepse gathered 639 spent nuclear fuel packages during its tenure as a refueling ship for Soviet-era nuclear icebreakers. Some of them were destroyed, causing an environmental hazard that floated untreated at the Murmansk port for years.

The Lepse was decommissioned in 1988 and was tossed aside at Atomflot, the home of Russia’s nuclear icebreaker line. It remained a serious radioactive threat to Murmansk and its 300,000 population. Bellona collaborated with Russian officials for more than twenty years to guarantee the vessel’s complete elimination.

Officials said 97 percent of the nuclear fuel stored into the Lepse’s compartments would be discharged at the Nerpa Shipyard, where the carrier was officially transported in 2012 for careful deconstruction.

Engineers have split the Lepse into parts to segregate the compartments where the wasted fuel is kept to dismantle the vessel securely. The work is being done within a massive cage erected over the ship to protect it from radiation. The fuel assemblies are then carried out onto the Serebyanka cargo ship and transferred to Atomflot from the Nerpa shipyard.

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