Transporting spent nuclear fuel on the Russian Railways

With a large fleet of nuclear power stations used for electricity generation across Russia, there is also an increasing quantity of отработанного ядерного топлива (spent nuclear fuel) needing to be safely transported to reprocessing or storage facilities, where the useful material can be reused and the remnant radioactivity can be safely managed for the thousands of years required for it to naturally decay. The chosen model of transport – train.

Photo via

The irradiated fuel assemblies are loaded into transport casks inside the nuclear power station, which are then loaded inside specially constructed rail wagons.

Photo via

Heavier than a normal railway wagon thanks to the layers of steel shielding, multiple bogies are needed to spread the load.

Which can then be sent anywhere in Russia.


Fresh fuel assemblies are also transported to Russian nuclear power plants by rail – here is a (Russian language) documentary on the process.

Further reading

The Bellona Foundation is an international environmental NGO based in Norway, and has written much about the history of Russia’s transport of spent nuclear fuel.

Russia received one more special train for spent nuclear fuel transportation
November 2003

The US-based Cooperative Threat Reduction Program sponsored construction of six special TK-VG-18-2 type rail cars. The rail cars for spent nuclear fuel passed all the required tests and were certified for operation. Each car can take two 40-tonn containers with spent nuclear fuel. The new train will allow to speed-up the spent nuclear fuel transportation to the storage and reprocessing points. Until recent time Russia had two nuclear trains with four cars each. The Norwegian Government sponsored the second train’s construction.

Transport of nuclear materials requires more public awareness and legislation
October 2006

In July 2006, activists from Greenpeace’s St. Petersburg office discovered several unguarded trains containing uranium hexafluoride at the station at Kapitolovo in the Leningrad Region, where Izotop is based. The train cars were parked directly next to passenger platforms. Moreover, Greenpeace measured the radiation dose on the platforms where passengers were standing at 800 microrontgens per hour, or more than 40 times the normal background radiation level.

“Nuclear and radiation safety is at a level such that transportation of nuclear materials presents no danger to the public,” Shishkin said. “A person would have to stand on the platform at Kapitolovo for 400 hours to receive the maximum yearly dose that would cause no harm to his health.”

Dmitry Artamonov, head of Greenpeace’s St. Petersburg office, disagreed with Shishkin’s reasoning.

“This sort of transportation could be a great present for terrorists, either as a source of nuclear materials, or as a direct target for an attack,” he said. “Such an attack could lead to very serious consequences, since it would not be too difficult to destroy the containers. And even without terrorists, an ‘everyday’ accident could produce an effect just the same.”

Radioactive waste train still in St. Petersburg – protesters threatened at gunpoint
March 2008

The protesters with Bellona and other Russian environmental groups were accosted by the guard bearing an AK-47, who cocked and pointed the weapon at the environmentalists who were filming the results of their radiation measurements – which exceeded background radiation levels by 30 times. The armed guard was travelling with the load as specified by law.

Bellona and Ecodefence have been following the load of uranium tails since it put into the port of St. Petersburg on Friday filled with waste from Germany’s Urenco enrichment facility in Gronau. Bellona and other Russian environmental groups demand the transport of the radioactive waste be ceased immediately.

Environmental protesters where hanging a banner emblazoned with the phrase “No to the import of nuclear waste” on the train platform in Avtovo, a thickly settled suburb of St. Petersburg where the train had come to a stop

Russia’s plan to move spent nuclear fuel to Siberia raises safety concerns – and fails to solve the mounting waste problem
December 2011

A special-purpose train carrying 80 tons of spent nuclear fuel (SNF) from Leningrad Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) near Russia’s second largest city of St. Petersburg is soon to head out to a closed town in Siberia – a first shipment in an envisioned large-scale SNF relocation project that environmentalists fear will turn Siberia into a nuclear dumpsite and drastically increase overall safety risks, while helping none to address the exacerbating threat of nuclear waste accumulation.

Up to 22,500 tons of spent nuclear fuel generated in Russia’s altogether eleven RBMK-1000 reactors still in operation may be relocated from the country’s European regions to Zheleznogorsk, on the banks of the river Yenisei. Two hundred and ninety “nuclear trains” will be required to transport that much waste – assuming that all three Russian NPPs employing this type of reactors will continue to operate beyond their design-basis useful life terms.

Decades of piled up nuclear fuel bids farewell to Andreyeva Bay
June 2017

During the 1990s a green four-car train would make the rounds every few months to Russia’s snowy Kola Peninsula to cart nuclear fuel and radioactive waste more than 3000 kilometers south from the Arctic to the Ural Mountains.

At the time, the lonely rail artery was the center of a logistical and financial bottleneck that made Northwest Russia, home of the once feared Soviet nuclear fleet, a toxic dumping ground shrouded in military secrecy.

Infrastructure, technology and the Kremlin were failing to keep up with the mushrooming catastrophe. The nuclear fuel train could only bear away 588 fuel assemblies at a time three or four times a year – little more than the contents of one nuclear submarine per trip. Even if the train ran on schedule, removing broken or deformed nuclear fuel elements at Andreyeva Bay was still seen as impossible.

Spent nuclear fuel trains elsewhere

Countries who operate nuclear reactors of Soviet design often export their spent nuclear fuel to Russia – Ukraine and Bulgaria have agreements in place; while including Finland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic have done so in the past.

Canada’s Nuclear Waste Management Organization published a report in 2015 estimating spent nuclear fuel consignments worldwide:

  • Canada: five per year by road.
  • ​USA: 3000 to 2015 by road, rail, and ship.
  • Sweden: 40 per year by ship.
  • UK: 300 per year by rail.
  • ​France: 250 per year by rail.
  • Germany: 40 per year by rail.
  • ​Japan: 200 to 2013 by ship.

A Twitter bot tracks the progress of progress of spent nuclear fuel trains around the United Kingdom.

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Circular station vestibules in Russia

Russian metro stations are best known for the ornate design at platform level, but the entrance vestibules back at ground level can also be quite amazing.

This is the original entrance to Park Kultury station, opened along with the first phase of the Moscow Metro in 1935.

Looking across the road to a Moscow Metro entrance vestibule

The vestibule building is an ornate rotunda.

Circular entrance rotunda on the Moscow Metro

Housing a pair of curved staircases inside.

One way traffic up a staircase on the Moscow Metro

Continuing the theme is the Saint Petersburg Metro, which has a collection of 1960s stations that share the same circular entrance vestibule design.

Park Pobedy station of Saint Petersburg Metro (photo by Florstein, via Wikimedia Commons)
Photo by Florstein, via Wikimedia Commons

the work of architects A.S. Getskin and V.P. Shuvalova. Three remain today: Park Pobedy, Elektrosila and Frunzenskaya.

The fourth example was Gorkovskaya station, which has since been rebuilt.

Station vestibule at Gorkovskaya (Го́рьковская) station on line 2

Originally opened in 1963, in 2009 the original circular concrete ‘bunker’ that houses the station centre was replaced something at looks more like a UFO!

Station vestibule at Gorkovskaya (Го́рьковская) station on line 2

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Kiev’s metro tunnel that is actually a bridge

On the Kiev Metro there is a curious section of tunnel that doesn’t run underground – instead the concrete tube is carried over a deep railway cutting by a bridge, only to head straight back underground.

Image by AMY, via Wikimedia Commons

Called the Гаванський шляхопровід (Harbour Overpass) the bridge was completed in 1971 to carry the M1 Sviatoshynsko–Brovarska line of the Kiev Metro inside a concrete tunnel over the Kyiv-Volynsky – Pochayna mainline railway, with the four eastbound lanes of Проспект Перемоги (Prospect Peremohy) passing over the top.

But for passengers on the metro, the Harbour Overpass is a non-event – the concrete tube means trains pass between Nyvky (Нивки) and Beresteiska (Берестейська) stations in the dark, with nothing to suggest they have momentarily returned to ground level.

Island platform at Nyvky (Нивки) station on Line 1

Further reading

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Ghost stations of the Kiev Metro

Hidden beneath the streets of Kiev, Ukraine is something unusual – a trio of unused metro stations that see train pass through, but never stop.

Львiвська Брама (Lvivska Brama)

Львiвська Брама (Lvivska Brama) is the best known of the three ghost stations.

Interior of the ghost station Lvivska Brama on the Kiev Metro (photo by AMY 81-412, via Wikimedia Commons)
Photo by AMY 81-412, via Wikimedia Commons

Work on the station began in the early-1990s as part of the northern extension of the M3 Syretsko–Pecherska line, but due to the lack of funds and indecision about the ground level entrance to the station at Lviv Square, work on the station stopped.

The metro line through the station opened in 1996, but the station lays empty today, the two platform tunnels and central hall of ‘three-vault deep pylon” design visible to passengers onboard passing trains. Access to the station is sometimes granted, with one notable use being a 2013 fashion show held by Ukrainian brand “Obrani”.

Photo via Gennadiy Moysenko

Various plans have been floated to complete the station, the most recent listing a 2018 completion date. This would require the construction of an escalator tunnel to the surface, station buildings at ground level, and fitout of the incomplete platforms.

Теличка (Telychka)

Теличка (Telychka) is the second ghost station on the Kiev Metro.

Interior of the ghost station Telychka on the Kiev Metro (Photo by AnkelKoss, via Wikimedia Commons)
Photo by AnkelKoss, via Wikimedia Commons

Work on the station began in the early-1990s as part of a southern extension of the M3 Syretsko–Pecherska line, but due to the industrial nature of the area the decision was made to only build the shell of a station. Of Колонная станция мелкого заложения (shallow column station) design, two flanking platforms were provided, easily visible to passengers of passing trains.

Various proposals have been made to turn the shell into a finished station, but all have been dependant on the redevelopment of the surrounding industrial area as a new residential precinct.

Герцена (Herzen)

Герцена (Herzen) is the least developed of the Kiev Metro ghost stations.

Photo via

The construction of the station began in the mid-1990s as part of a northern extension of the M3 Syretsko–Pecherska line, under the working title of Заго́рівська (Zagorovskaya). The economic downturn lead to progress stalling, with the decision made to abandon the provision of a station at the site. Trains commenced passing through in 2000 with the extension to Дорогожичи (Dorohozhychi) station.

Today the only sign of the station is a ventilation shaft provided at the site, along with a traction power substation.


All are either Ukrainian or Russian language.

Львiвська Брама (Lvivska Brama):

Теличка (Telychka):

Герцена (Herzen)

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What do Russians finance at payday lenders?

Following on from a previous post on a clever advertisement from a payday lender in Nizhny Novgorod, this advert from ТФБ-Займъ (TFB-Zaim) has another oddball list of reasons to borrow money at exorbitant interest rates.

Another advertisement for a payday lender on the Nizhny Novgorod Metro

I can understand car repairs, new tires and possibly painting the house. But furniture and gifts are on shakier ground – let alone teeth whitening!

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Roadside billboards in Russia

You’ve got to hand it to Russia – decades of communism haven’t affected their ability to get people to buy useless crap, if these billboards along the Volga River in Nizhny Novgorod are anything to go by.

More roadside billboards in Russia

‘High returns’ from «Сбербанк» (Sberbank).

More roadside billboards

Credit cards from «Райффайзенбанк» (Raiffeisenbank).

Roadside billboards beside the Volga River

And ice skates at «реал,-Гипермаркет» (Real Hypermarket).

Only 444 roubles for ice skates? Why not?

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‘Exit via the gift shop’ at the Church of the Savior on Blood

Exiting via the gift shop is something you expect to do at a museum – but what about at a church? However when I paid a visit to the Church of the Savior on Blood in Saint Petersburg, that is exactly what happened.

South elevation of the church

The church is best known for it’s mosaics – over 7500 square meters worth.

Central mosiac covers the floor

Stretching from floor to ceiling.

Central mosaic with the iconostasis (wall of icons and religious paintings)

Souvenir stalls line the entrance to the church.

Souvenir stalls outside the church, beside Mikhailovsky Garden

But the gift shop inside the church itself was what really surprised me.

Souvenirs for sale in the gift shop

But maybe I shouldn’t have been so surprised, given the history of the building.

On October 30, 1930, the Presidium of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee decided to close the church. During the Second World War when many people were starving due to the Siege of Leningrad by Nazi German military forces, the church was used as a temporary morgue for those who died in combat and from starvation and illness.

After the war, the church was used as a warehouse for vegetables, leading to the sardonic name of Saviour on Potatoes.

In July 1970, management of the church passed to Saint Isaac’s Cathedral and it was used as a museum. The proceeds from the Cathedral funded the restoration of the church. It was reopened in August 1997, after 27 years of restoration, but has not been reconsecrated and does not function as a full-time place of worship.

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«Саквояж СВ» – inhouse magazine of the Russian Railways

Inflight magazines are a common sight whenever you fly, but the Russian Railways also have give their passengers something to read on long train journeys – inhouse magazine «Саквояж СВ».

РЖД branded teaset, and two copies of their inhouse magazine  «Саквояж СВ»

«Саквояж» is the Russian word for a leather travel bag – an related to what in the west is called a ‘carpet bag‘.

The «ЖД Медиа» (Railway Media) describes the magazine as such.

“Саквояж СВ” is the first in the country ground-based full-color full-fledged on-board magazine, distributed on the trains of OJSC “RZD”. Magazine Саквояж СВ is distributed in all first class carriages (individual copies for each passenger), as well as sleeping cars (one copy per table) of RZD long-distance trains. It is a bright monthly publication in the style of life-style and covers all aspects of life. The magazine allows you to waste time traveling and find useful information for passengers.

Circulation: about 400,000 copies
Published: monthly

Columns of leading journalists

Author’s columns set the style for the whole magazine. Leading Russian and foreign journalists share their thoughts with the readers about the most important issues of the present.

The most interesting novelties

Famous music journalists, film critics, and also commentators of the world of engineering and automotive industry talk about the latest releases and novelties.

Travel, city and country materials

Stories about the most famous railway stations and stations, detailed guides to cities and countries. Qualitative photo-reports about life in Russia and abroad.

Biographies of celebrities

The life path of famous people with all the turns, ups and downs. Stories about compatriots who succeeded abroad. Collections of citations of celebrities of the past.

Cognitive and popular science materials

Everything is new from the world of science and technology. Anything that will seriously change our life in the future and changed it in the past.


Actual characters of our time – filmmakers, actors, musicians, writers and politicians – talk with correspondents of the magazine “Саквояж СВ”.


Stories of famous writers, written specifically for the magazine “Саквояж СВ”.

The Russian Railways also publishes ‘Sapsan’ magazine – “The official journal of the Sapsan high speed train”.


Online version of the magazine.

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Sochi construction before the 2014 Winter Olympics

My visit to Sochi was during the leadup to the 2014 Winter Olympics, so the city was in a state of flux.

Snow covered mountains tower over the Russian city of Sochi

Cranes soared into the sky.

New apartment blocks under construction before the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi

As new apartment blocks took shape.

Tower cranes at work above Sochi

As well as new hotels.

More new buildings under construction in Sochi

Adding to the skyline.

Tower cranes fill the skies over Sochi

The Port of Sochi was also being expanded.

Works continue on the new cruise ship terminal at Sochi

With a new cruise ship terminal built.

Work on the new Sochi cruise ship terminal underway

New freeways were built across Sochi.

Viaduct under construction for the Kurortny Prospect backup highway

With elevated viaducts passing over roads.

Viaduct for the 'Kurortny Prospect backup highway' through Sochi

And towering over houses.

Viaduct under construction for the Kurortny Prospect backup highway

The railway along the Black Sea coast linking Sochi to the rest of Russia was also upgraded.

Our 20 carriage long train snaking along the Black Sea coast at Вишнёвка (Vishnevka)

With a second track being built alongside the existing, doubling the number of trains that could run.

Construction equipment for track duplication works near Вишнёвка (Vishnevka)

And after the games?

After every Olympic Games comes the obligatory visit to the abandoned games village – in the case of Sochi 2014 nothing has changed, with the Adler–Krasnaya Polyana railway that links it to downtown Sochi now seeing a handful of trains per day.


The Russian Railways built 157 kilometres of new road and rail infrastructure for Sochi 2014 – this presentation has the full details.

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Builder’s plates on Russian-built trains

A builder’s plate indicates who built a particular piece of machinery, as well as the the model number, serial number, and date of manufacture. Here are some examples from the rolling stock of the railways of Russia and Ukraine.

ЭД4МК class Электропоезд (electric multiple unit) operated by Russian Railways.

ЭД4МК and ЭД4М class Электропоезд (electric multiple unit) trains at Sochi

Built by the Демиховский машиностроительный завод (Demikhovo Machinebuilding Plant)

Builders plate on a ЭД4МК class Электропоезд (electric multiple unit)

EЖ electric multiple unit on the Kiev Metro.

Dnipro (Днiпро) station as a Type 'EЖ' train arrives

Built by the Мытищинский машиностроительный завод (Mytishchi Machinebuilding Plant)

Builders plate on a Type 'EЖ' Metro carriage, No. 5158 built in 1970

And a (electric multiple unit) named Поэт Борис Корнилов (poet Boris Kornilov) on the Gorky division of the Russian Railways.

Type ЭД9М (ED9M) electric multiple unit ЭД9М 0265 between runs

Built by the Демиховский машиностроительный завод (Demikhovo Machinebuilding Plant)

Builders plate on type ЭД9М (ED9M) electric multiple unit ЭД9М 0074

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