Richardson Tours Russia Nuke Base

Sunday, September 3rd 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

MOSCOW (AP) — U.S. Energy Secretary Bill Richardson on Sunday toured a nuclear submarine base on Russia's remote Kamchatka Peninsula, getting a first-hand look at decommissioned vessels Russia can't afford to dismantle alone.

Russia doesn't have the equipment or the cash to clean up all the nuclear reactors and waste left over from the Cold War. Of particular concern to many Western countries are its dozens of nuclear submarines.

Experts say they pose environmental dangers and are concerned that the nuclear material inside could be sold illegally.

In Kamchatka, the Russians asked Richardson for U.S. help disposing of the material inside the decaying, rust-covered submarines lined up in the harbor.

Richardson's visit to Kamchatka ended a tour across Russia this week aimed at checking up on a program to make sure nuclear materials are safely disposed of. On Friday, he unveiled two storage facilities for spent nuclear fuel from submarines at the Russian Pacific Fleet's main base.

Although Richardson did not offer immediate help in Kamchatka, he said the tour of the base showed how Cold War barriers had fallen and Russia and the United States are working together to prevent proliferation of nuclear goods.

``Seeing what we saw, which would have been unthinkable 10 years ago, represents clear progress in our continuing, evolving relationship,'' Richardson said. ``Clearly it has not been easy for the Russians to have opened up their most secret of sites for us to see.''

The United States has already provided several hundred million dollars to help Russia build new nuclear waste storage and disposal facilities.