Veolia begins the deconstruction of five nuclear submarines

Posted on 05 March 2019.

In 2018 Veolia was entrusted with a complex task - deconstructing five nuclear submarines and recycling the maximum waste from these gigantic vessels.

Veolia plans to recycle 87% of each submarine – at least 5,300 metric tons of material per vessel.

For decades after the Second World War, countries abandoned their defense equipment in the Pacific, Atlantic and Arctic Oceans - in particular their munitions, explosives, hydrocarbons and radioactive waste. In 1993, the Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes banned any type of nuclear waste being dumped in the oceans.
So now this waste has to be treated. And given the danger, it’s a very complex task. Veolia has been selected to deconstruct and recycle five Naval Group nuclear submarines that have come to the end of their useful working lives. Le Tonnant, Le Terrible, Le Foudroyant, L’Indomptable and L’Inflexible are the five ballistic missile submarines that will soon be deconstructed by the Veolia teams.

Le Tonnant is the first

The first dismantling project started in Cherbourg in September 2018 on the submarine Le Tonnant - 120 meters long and weighing over 6,100 metric tons. For Veolia employees it is a herculean and painstaking task. The first step is to clean the hull to remove organic organisms (algae, barnacles, etc.).
Next comes degassing and pumping out the residual pollutants before removing the asbestos. Following these steps, the remaining shell is sectioned. The parts are then transported by road to a processing unit where they are separated and sorted.
A total of 5,300 metric tons of material should be recovered from each vessel, including 1,500 metric tons of hull, 2,000 metric tons of scrap iron, 800 metric tons of lead and 1,000 metric tons of non-ferrous metals such as copper and stainless steel. Veolia's aim is to recycle 87% of each submarine. The Naval Group specifies that the remaining 13% of materials will be sent through classified processing channels for treatment. An enormous circular economy loop requiring at least eighteen months’ work on each vessel.

In 2014, Veolia was entrusted with deconstructing and recycling the former helicopter carrier Jeanne d’Arc.
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