Russia’s “floating Chernobyl” nuclear power plant has just set sail

The twin nuclear reactor power plant that floats on sea has just set sail across the Baltics

30 Apr 2018
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 A controversial mobile nuclear power plant, nicknamed the "floating Chernobyl", has just set sail from St. Petersburg and is making its way through the Baltic Sea.

It will be towed through Estonian, Danish, Swedish and Norwegian waters before landing in the small town of Murmansk in Russia, where it will be loaded up with nuclear fuel.

Akademik Lomonosov, as it's officially called, has two reactors and was intended to be loaded up and tested on St. Petersburg itself. However, it was moved to Mermansk after pressure from Green Peace Russia and other Baltic states. From Mermansk, the barge will travel east toward the Arctic before it settles on the coast of Chukotka and put into service in 2019. Here it will power a desalination plant, oil rig and a port town.

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The floating power plant is predicted to generate enough energy to power a town of 100,000 people, but as it embarks on its long journey, there are a fair few things that could go very wrong. For one, it doesn't have its own propeller’s, so needs to be towed to its destination. As Green Peace's Jan Haverkamp said in a statement: "The floating nuclear power plants will typically be put to use near coastlines and shallow water contrary to claims regarding safety, the flat-bottomed hull and the floating nuclear power plant's lack of self-propulsion makes it particularly vulnerable to tsunamis and cyclones."

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While state-controlled nuclear energy firm and owner of the Lomonosov, Rosatom, told the Independent that it is designed with a "great margin of safety," when you consider Russia doesn’t have the strongest track record when it comes to nuclear, it's hard not to be nervous about a "floating Chernobyl". The most disastrous nuclear accident, the Chernobyl explosion caused radioactive waste to spread over numerous countries and made parts of Ukraine completely uninhabitable.

With Russia already planning to launch a second floating power plant in 2019, and many other countries like China, Algeria, Malaysia and Argentina, reportedly in talks to hire one, we could soon see our waters populated with radioactive power plants.

Image: Shutterstock

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