Sat, Aug 24, 2019 - Page 6 News List

Russia launches floating reactor despite warnings

‘NUCLEAR TITANIC’:The reactor is particularly susceptible to storms and plans to store waste on board, with no cleanup infrastructure in the region

AFP, MOSCOW

Russia yesterday was to launch the world’s first floating nuclear reactor and send it on a journey across the Arctic, despite environmentalists warning of serious risks to the region.

Loaded with nuclear fuel, the Akademik Lomonosov was to leave the Arctic port of Murmansk to begin its 5,000km voyage to northeastern Siberia.

The Rosatom State Nuclear Energy Corp said that the reactor is a simpler alternative to building a conventional plant on ground that is frozen year-round, and it intends to sell such reactors abroad.

Environmental groups have long warned of the dangers of the project, dubbing it a potential “Chernobyl on ice” and a “nuclear Titanic.”

A deadly explosion this month at a military testing site in Russia’s far north, causing a radioactive surge, has prompted further concerns.

The reactor’s trip is expected to last between four and six weeks, depending on the weather conditions and amount of ice.

Work began on the 144m Akademik Lomonosov in Saint Petersburg in 2006.

When it arrives in Pevek, a town of 5,000 in the Siberian region of Chukotka, it is to replace a local nuclear plant and a closed coal plant.

It is due to go into operation by the end of year, mainly serving the region’s oil platforms as Russia develops the exploitation of hydrocarbons in the Arctic.

Greenpeace Russia senior nuclear campaigner Rashid Alimov said that environmental groups had been critical of the idea of a floating reactor since the 1990s.

“Any nuclear power plant produces radioactive waste and can have an accident, but Akademik Lomonosov is additionally vulnerable to storms,” he said.

The float is towed by other vessels, making a collision during a storm more likely, he said.

As Rosatom plans to store spent fuel on board, “any accident involving this fuel might have a serious impact on the fragile environment of the Arctic,” Alimov said, adding that there is “no infrastructure for a nuclear cleanup” in the region.

Alimov added that the project was a missed opportunity, as Chukotka “has a huge potential for the development of wind energy.”

“A floating nuclear power plant is a too risky and too expensive way of producing electricity,” he said.

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