Russia’s ‘Floating Chernobyl’ Alarms Officials

The nuclear age has taken to the high seas.

This statement has nothing to do with nuclear-powered submarines, aircraft carriers or ice-breaking naval vessels. The ground-breaking, or rather ground-leaving, event involves nuclear reactors perched atop floating barges and hauled out to sea.

‘Nuclear Titanic’

On April 28, a Russian planned and constructed nuclear facility was successfully tugged from its berthing area in the historic naval port of St. Petersburg to Murmansk.

Known as the Akademik Lomonosov, the floating plant was designed by OKBM Afrikantov, a power equipment company, and owned by Rosatom. It will have two nuclear reactors similar to Russian nuclear-powered ice breakers.

Afrikantov noted on its website that the facility is a ‘pilot design’ that it hopes will bring additional power to the 300,000 inhabitants of Murmansk as well as oil rigs located offshore. Presently, citizens of this city rely largely on diesel fuel for energy production and for heating.

According to Sky News, “Floating plants are adapted to operate in hard-to-reach areas next to sea shores or the banks of large rivers far from centralised power supplies, the company says.”

Afrikantov states that the structure was built to survive “tsunamis, tornados and other environmental impacts, as well as possible collisions with ships.”

The facility will be slowly tugged through the Baltic Sea and around the Norwegian coast. It will be positioned and anchored off the coast of Murmansk, going into operational mode in 2019.

Troubled Waters

Groups like Greenpeace have been extremely agitated by the Russian facility. Slapping the water-borne reactors as ‘Nuclear Titanic’ and ‘Floating Chernobyl’, opponents have prophesized extreme dangers to the ecosystems of the world.

“Nuclear reactors bobbing around the Arctic Ocean will pose a shockingly obvious threat to a fragile environment which is already under enormous pressure from climate change,” said Jan Haverkamp, nuclear expert for Greenpeace Central and Eastern Europe.

Afrikantov has proposed building several more similar facilities, which are making environmentalists very nervous.

Power Technology writes about the environmental concerns, noting that opponents are worried about “large amounts of radioactive steam” that will impact marine ecosystems.

Also noted by Power Technology:

“Seismic activities frequently occur in the Kamchatka region, where Akademik Lomonsov is deployed. An earthquake-triggered tsunami can destroy an onshore floating nuclear power plant and cause the release of radioactive material and fuel from nuclear waste.”

So will Akademik Lomonosov be truly able to withstand such forces?

The Russians, however, have an impressive history of maintaining the safety and integrity of nuclear powered ice breakers.


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