According to environmental NGO Bellona, builders of Russia’s first floating nuclear power plant this summer agreed not to load its uranium fuel in the middle of St. Petersburg, a city of five million people, after pressure from the Norwegian Government.
Officials with Rosatom, Russia’s state nuclear corporation, had previously planned to fuel the Akademik Lomonosov at Baltic Shipyard – less than two kilometres from sites like the Winter Palace, the Hermitage and St. Isaac’s Cathedral.
The new venue for loading the fuel is now Murmansk, through which the plant will be towed while en route to the Kamchatka Peninsula via the Arctic.
Adding to worries that a mishap during fuel loading could contaminate Russia’s second capital, Norway’s Foreign Ministry was reportedly not pleased with the idea of two KLT-40 reactors containing irradiated uranium fuel skirting its 83,000-kilometre coastline while the plant is hauled to the Chutkotka Autonomous Region on the Pacific.
“A fire that broke out aboard the plant in June at the Baltic Shipyard re-channeled fears that the waterborne nuclear station is an expensive misadventure that provides juicy bait to terrorists on the prowl for dirty bomb material as well as a near certain environmental disaster,” commented Bellona’s Charles Digges.
Rosatom hopes Akademik Lomonsov will represent a working model of a floating nuclear option, prompting foreign sales. China is mulling floating nuclear plants of its own.
In late June, State Secretary Marit Berger Røsland with Norway’s Foreign Ministry raised objections to Russia’s plans to tow the Akademik Lomonosov around Norway after it had been loaded with its nuclear fuel. Rosatom head Alexei Likhachev responded in a company release on July 21, promising the vessel would be towed to Murmansk for fueling operations.
When the Akademik Lomonosov is finally fuelled, it will be towed to Pevek on the far eastern Kamchatka Peninsula. There it is slated to replace the nuclear power supplied by the Bilibino Nuclear Power Plant, which Rosatom plans to subsequently decommission.
The Akademik Lomonsov will be Russia’s first-ever floating nuclear power plant.
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