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Russia’s grandiose nuclear ambitions – expressed in its floating nuclear plant for the Arctic

Russian floating nuclear plant prepares for towing into Arctic seas,  Plant to support 50,000-person Chukotka region with power for oil and gas industries  Katie Toth · CBC News  Jul 10, 2019   Russia’s controversial nuclear barge is ready to travel through the Arctic seas — and observers across the globe are watching.

Greenpeace has called it a “floating Chornobyl.” 

But the Akademik Lomonosov, which will dock in the Eastern Siberian town of Pevek, also provides a small glimpse into Russia’s northern ambitions and the role of nuclear power in achieving them.

Russia’s atomic energy agency, the Rosatom State Atomiс Energy Corporation (ROSATOM), has said in news releases that the future floating nuclear power plant will be a key piece of infrastructure as it develops its Arctic shipping route. 

Meanwhile, the agency has started work on a fleet of nuclear-powered icebreakers to keep that route open. Its latest three ships can cut through three metres of ice, and each can produce 350 megawatts of power. 

It’s a lot more difficult to counter a catastrophe there than anywhere else on the globe.– Jan Haverkamp, Greenpeace

Rebecca Pincus, an assistant professor with the U.S. Naval War College, says Russia’s vision for itself as a global superpower in the 21st century hinges on the far North.

Russia’s grand strategy for the century is centred on developing Arctic resources,” Pincus said. “That economic engine [is] … integral to Russia relaunching its place in the world.” 

According to statements by ROSATOM, the plant will supply the 50,000-person Chukotka region with power and it will support “key industries” in this oil-and-gas rich region. 

‘It’s a classical Russian solution’

The choice to build a floating nuclear power station is “a fabulous little encapsulation of all the challenges Russia faces in developing its Arctic zone,” Pincus said. “Floating a nuclear power plant to a tiny little city in the Russian Arctic is colossally challenging, colossally expensive … it’s a classical Russian solution.”

………. Jan Haverkamp, a nuclear energy expert with Greenpeace, says his organization is right to be worried. The Lomonosov will be docking in one of the most remote places in the world.

The Lomonosov, prior to a paint job. Greenpeace is concerned about the plant and its isolated location, saying that it would be difficult to counter a catastophe in the remote region. (ROSATOM)

“It’s a lot more difficult to counter a catastrophe there than anywhere else on the globe,” he said.

Haverkamp is also concerned about the power being used to extract fossil fuels.

“Climate change is a given.… Opening up new fossil projects at the moment, when the world needs to be fossil-free in 2050, does not seem to make very much sense.”

Meanwhile, ROSATOM says this barge is only a small piece of a new future for floating nuclear power. It’s building a second generation of the floating nuclear units, and it’s in talks with several countries looking to buy nuclear barges of their own.

Emails to ROSATOM’s media contact were not returned before publication.

The barge will start getting towed to Pevek in August.

July 13, 2019 - Posted by | politics, Russia, technology

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