Russia launches floating nuclear reactor in Arctic regardless of warnings

The Akademik Lomonosov’s 5,000-kilometre journey to northeastern Siberia has been dubbed a possible “Chernobyl on ice”  (AFP Picture/Alexander NEMENOV)

Moscow (AFP) – Russia will launch the world’s first floating nuclear reactor and ship it on an epic journey throughout the Arctic on Friday, regardless of environmentalists warning of significant dangers to the area.

Loaded with nuclear gasoline, the Akademik Lomonosov will depart the Arctic port of Murmansk to start its 5,000 kilometre (3,000-mile) voyage to northeastern Siberia.

Nuclear company Rosatom says the reactor is an easier various to constructing a standard plant on floor that’s frozen all yr spherical, and it intends to promote such reactors overseas.

However environmental teams have lengthy warned of the risks of the mission, dubbing it a possible “Chernobyl on ice” and a “nuclear Titanic.”

A lethal explosion this month at a navy testing web site in Russia’s far north, inflicting a radioactive surge, has prompted additional considerations.

The reactor’s journey is predicted to final between 4 and 6 weeks, relying on the climate circumstances and the quantity of ice on the way in which.

Work started on the 144-metre (472-foot) Akademik Lomonosov in Saint Petersburg in 2006.

When it arrives in Pevek, a city of 5,000 within the Siberian area of Chukotka, it’s going to change a neighborhood nuclear plant and a closed coal plant.

It’s due to enter operation by the tip of yr, primarily serving the area’s oil platforms as Russia develops the exploitation of hydrocarbons within the Arctic.

– Radioactive waste –

Rashid Alimov, the pinnacle of the power sector of Greenpeace Russia, mentioned environmental teams had been important of the concept of a floating reactor because the 1990s.

“Any nuclear energy plant produces radioactive waste and may have an accident, however Akademik Lomonosov is moreover weak to storms,” he advised AFP.

The float is towed by different vessels, making a collision throughout a storm extra seemingly, he mentioned.

As a result of Rosatom plans to retailer spent gasoline onboard, Alimov mentioned “any accident involving this gasoline may need a critical affect on the delicate setting of the Arctic.”

He added that there’s “no infrastructure for a nuclear clear up” within the area.

International warming and melting ice has made the Northeast Passage — which connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific alongside Russia’s northern coast — extra accessible.

When AFP visited the Akademik Lomonosov in Might 2018, it was a shabby brown color. It has since been repainted within the crimson, white and blue of the Russian flag.

The vessel weighs 21,000 tons and has two reactors with a capability of 35 megawatts every, near that of these utilized by nuclear icebreakers.

It has a crew of 69 and travels at a velocity of three.5 to 4.5 knots.

Alimov mentioned the mission was a missed alternative as Chukotka, a area bigger than Texas populated by solely 50,000 individuals, “has an enormous potential for the event of wind power.”

“A floating nuclear energy plant is a too dangerous and too costly approach of manufacturing electrical energy,” he mentioned.

The nuclear trade, searching for to reinvent itself in a dismal market, is growing smaller, cheaper reactors to draw new prospects.

They observe the examples of submarines, icebreakers and plane carriers, which have lengthy used nuclear energy, and are meant for remoted areas with little infrastructure.

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