Russia has launched the world’s first floating nuclear power plant, the 70-megawatt Academik Lomonosov, on the Baltic Sea, state nuclear agency Rosatom has said.
Starting from St. Petersburg, the whole plant will be towed around Norway to Murmansk in Russia’s Far North to take on nuclear fuel. From there, it will head to the Arctic to power the oil industry town of Pevek, along with a desalination plant and drilling rigs, Rosatom said.
Construction on the ship began way back in 2007, and it reportedly cost $232 million to build. Rosatom originally planned to load the reactor with nuclear fuel at St. Petersburg, then send the ship directly to Pevek. But Greenpeace and several Baltic states mounted a successful petition, so the firm decided to load and test it in Murmansk, instead.
Greenpeace and other environmental groups still don’t think this is a great idea, though, especially since the ship must be towed and can’t move on its own power.
“Moving the testing of this ‘nuclear Titanic’ away from the public eye will not make [the testing less irresponsible],” said Greenpeace nuclear expert Jan Haverkamp. “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.”
The ship, with twin nuclear reactors, has enough power for a city of about 100,000 people, according to Rosatom. Russia relies heavily on petroleum for its economy and like other nations, has staked claims to the oil-rich Arctic. Ironically, fossil fuel burning is primarily responsible for the global warming that’s rapidly melting Arctic ice, which is opening up new shipping lanes from Russia — and making further oil exploration possible.