The Submarine Fleet on Kamchatka
A nuclear submarine goes to sea off Kamchatka.
Kamchatka is home to the Pacific nuclear submarine fleet, housed across Avacha Bay from Petropavlovsk at the secret Rybachy base.
The Russian military has deteriorated along with the Russian economy. As a result, there is not enough money available to maintain the fleet, and many submarines sit idly at dockside, rusting slowly while their nuclear reactors degrade dangerously. Accidents are becoming more common. In 1997 a decommissioned Charlie-class nuclear submarine sank at Rybachy after corrosion allowed water to seep into its hull. Declining budgets have also sapped morale. Crime is up in all branches of the military. In early 2000, sailors at Rybachy stole radioactive materials from an active-duty submarine, intending to sell the materials later on the black market.
Change has begun to happen, albeit slowly. In fall 2000 Bill Richardson, the American Secretary of Energy, was allowed to visit the secret base at Rybachy during a tour of Russian nuclear sites. While there, he pledged U.S. support for Russia's plan to create a facility at Rybachy to dismantle submarine reactors and dispose of their fuel. It is not clear, however, if the new Bush administration will follow through on this pledge.
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