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‘Chernobyl on Ice’: Fears over Putin’s floating nuclear power station

PortandTerminal.com, August 5, 2019

MOSCOW – Russia is preparing to send its first floating nuclear plant on a 3,000-mile (5,000-kilometer) journey to provide electricity to a remote resource-rich region in the north.

A small Arctic port town of Pevek, almost 4,000 miles (6,500 km) away from Moscow will be the station’s final destination. It will supply electricity to settlements and companies extracting hydrocarbons and precious stones in the Chukotka region of Russia.

The endeavour is being compared to past nuclear disasters and is also raising concerns over Russia’s plans to sell the technology to other countries. Russia has been working to attract clients from Asia, Africa and South America to purchase next generations of Akademik Lomonosov, but has yet to announce any deals.

Backstory

The ‘”Akademik Lomonosov”, spruced up with its hull painted in the colors of the Russian flag.

The Akademik Lomonosov, which took almost two decades to build, will be the northernmost operating nuclear plant in the world, and it is key to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s plans to develop the Arctic region economically.

As a changing climate accelerates Arctic ice melt, Russia has worked to capitalize on newly opened trade routes and establish a strong military presence in the Arctic region, expanding its range of nuclear icebreakers, submarines and other technologies.

Pevek is the northernmost town in Russia and in Asia

About two million Russians reside near the Arctic coast in villages and towns similar to Pevek, settlements that are often reachable only by plane or ship, weather permitting. But they generate as much as 20 percent of Russia’s GDP and are key for Russian plans to tap into the hidden Arctic riches of oil and gas as Siberian reserves diminish.

In theory, floating nuclear power plants could help supply energy to remote areas without long-term commitments – or requiring large investments into conventional power stations on mostly uninhabitable land.

Concerns

Russia and a floating nuclear powerplant. What could possibly go wrong?

Greenpeace has called the Rosatom state nuclear company’s floating plant, the Akademik Lomonosov, the “nuclear Titanic” and the “floating Chernobyl.” Anyone familiar with the Chernobyl story will know that being compared to it is likely not a compliment.

The Chernobyl disaster is considered the worst nuclear disaster in history and is one of only two nuclear energy disasters rated at seven—the maximum severity—on the International Nuclear Event Scale

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