Japan and Russia hope to begin later this year the second phase of a plan to dismantle ageing Russian nuclear submarines that threaten to pollute in the Sea of Japan, a visiting Japanese official said Monday.
Under phase two of the bilateral "Star of Hope" project, five Russian nuclear submarines are to be dismantled, four of them in the town of Bolshoi Kamen, near Vladivostok, the other in the town of Vilyuchinsk in Kamchatka, said Kawai Katsuyuki, the foreign ministry's parliamentary secretary.
"If talks with Moscow are concluded favourably, work on the second phase can start as soon as the autumn," Katsuyuki said during a tour of several nuclear sites in the Russian Far East.
The visit follows completion of the first 18-month stage of "Star of Hope" in which one Viktor-3 class submarine was dismantled.
Japan pledged 800 million yen (5.8 million euros, 6.6 million dollars) for the first phase in June 2003..
The full plan envisages dismantling another 40 nuclear submarines from Russia's Pacific fleet by 2010.
Many of the vessels were taken out of service in the 1970s and are in poor condition, and are considered to present a very high risk of radioactive contamination.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is due to make a long-delayed visit to Japan on November 21-22.
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