April 21, 2017 – Russian environmentalists are demanding more information about a plan to fuel a floating nuclear power plant within sight of central St. Petersburg.
“The historical center is densely populated. We have to exclude even the thought of an accident,” Rashid Alimov of Greenpeace Russia told RFE/RL.
The law requires the city to approve the fueling, and to draw up evacuation plans in case of an accident, Alimov said.
The reactor-carrying ship Akademik Lomonosov has been under construction at St. Petersburg’s Baltic Shipyard since 2008. The shipyard says it is ready to begin tests, possibly involving fueling its two reactors with uranium, the environmental group Bellona reports.
The floating power station is the first of its kind in Russia. It is due to begin supplying heat and power to the Arctic port of Pevek in 2018 or 2019.
Bellona says Russia’s nuclear utility Rosenergoatom has not indicated exactly when the fueling operation will begin, after missing the December date it announced last May.
Construction of the Akademik Lomonosov began in the northern port of Severodinsk in 2007. Since being moved to St. Petersburg for the installation of the reactors in 2008, Bellona says, “it has weathered lawsuits, bankruptcy proceedings, property disputes, budget shortfalls and regular but protracted delays.”
- The first shipborne nuclear power plant was installed on a U.S. vessel in the 1960s and used to power pumps at the Panama Canal, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists wrote last year. Russia revived the idea in the 1990s as a cheap means of supplying power to the Arctic.
- The Akademik Lomonosov’s twin reactors each produce 35 megawatts of power. A second floating nuclear plant is planned for Vilyuchinsk on the Kamchatka peninsula, but it too is well behind schedule.
- The ship’s reactors will run on low-enriched uranium rather than the highly enriched uranium used on Russia’s nuclear powered icebreaker. “That helps to alleviate concerns about proliferation, but environmental and safety concerns remain. A floating nuclear power plant would probably be safe from earthquakes, but storms could be a threat, and accident response would be slow in remote Arctic areas,” the atomic bulletin says.
Compiled by Ky Krauthamer