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Russia launches old nuclear powered container ship to move fish

PortandTerminal.com, August 27, 2019

What could possibly go wrong? This 30-year-old Russian nuclear cargo ship is carrying 200 refrigerated containers full of fish and will soon sail through one of the world’s most environmentally vulnerable regions.

MOSCOW, RUSSIA – What is it with Russia and nuclear-powered maritime vessels? Earlier this month we reported on the floating nuclear station that is currently on a 3,000 mile (5,000 km) journey to a remote northern town where it will be used to supply electricity. Many are calling it “Chernobyl on Ice” and it has the world terrified of the potential consequences were there to be a mishap.

Russia’s “Chernobyl on Ice” is a floating, nuclear power station that is on a 3.000-mile journey to a remote northern town where it will be used to supply power.

Today the Moscow Times reported that the 30-year-old Sevmorput nuclear cargo ship is now being loaded with 200 refrigerated containers full of fish.

After taking on the containers at Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky port the nuclear ship will sail through the Northern Sea Route to St. Petersburg for delivery.


“This test voyage with the container carrier gives hope that someday such deliveries will become regular,” the Kamchatka region governor Vladimir Kuzmitsky has said in an interview with the region’s official news portal.

The Sevmorput will transport 200 containers filled with frozen fish, fillets, caviar and other seafood, with a total of 5,000 tons of cargo.

The first two stops of the three-week voyage will be along the Northern Sea Route, north of Siberia.

This is the first time that a Russian civilian nuclear-powered ship will sail with cargo outside the coast of Norway. From the North Sea, the Sevmorput will continue sailing through the narrow waters between Sweden and Denmark through the Great Belt and into the Baltic Sea before its final port call at St. Petersburg.

Russia’s state nuclear energy corporation Rosatom confirmed the voyage in a tweet on Monday.

Sevmorput is expected to cross the Barents Sea and sail outside Norway by the second week of September. The ship will then sail back on the same route and embark on a second voyage in late October.

Image credit: Barents Observer

Sevmorput is a one-of-a-kind nuclear-powered lighter and container carrier. Originally commissioned in 1988, the vessel mostly stayed in a Murmansk port. In 2008, the ship was officially laid up and in 2012 plans to scrap it had been drafted.

Let’s be sure we all read the last sentence in the above correctly:

“In 2008, the ship was officially laid up and in 2012 plans to scrap it had been drafted”

Why is a 30-year-old nuclear-powered ship, considered ready for scrap seven years ago, transporting containers across one of the most fragile environmental zones in the world? Your guess is as good as ours.

Recent Russian nuclear accidents

There is wide speculation that the rocket that exploded was the Burevestnik (Petrel), a nuclear-powered cruise missile first revealed by Russian President Vladimir Putin in March 2018

Earlier this month the Kremlin acknowledged that the incident that killed at least seven scientists and other personnel from a major state nuclear research laboratory, was caused by a system that included a small nuclear reactor. Many believe that those killed at the northern port city of Severodvinsk were working on Russia’s so-called “Doomsday” weapon. Read more here.

Fourteen experienced and highly decorated crewmen were killed on the shadowy nuclear-powered submarine in July 2019

In July of this year, a fire aboard a top-secret Russian nuclear-powered submarine killed 14 sailors while on assignment up in Russia’s northern waters. Read more here.

Shortly after the tragedy that killed the fourteen submariners, it was revealed that another sunken Soviet nuclear submarine that’s been on the seafloor for three decades is leaking an abnormally high amount of radiation, according to the Institute for Marine Research.  After a fire in its engine room, the Komsomolets sank in April 1989, coming to rest on the seafloor about 135 miles southwest of Norway’s Bear Island.

The list goes on an on. Russia loves nuclear vessels but struggles with keeping them afloat and safe. Let’s hope that none of their latest nuclear maritime projects ends up on HBO as popular as Chernobyl.

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