Russia Prepares for Floating Nuclear Plant Despite Environmental Concerns

BY Tiya Chatterji 28.Nov.2019

Russia is planning to dispatch its first floating nuclear power station- Akademik Lomonosov, on a 4,000-mile journey along the Northern Sea Route. This will be a milestone for the country’s growing use of nuclear power and its plans for Arctic expansion, despite environmental concerns.

Shipping through Russia’s remote arctic artery, the Northern Sea Route, has increased by 63 percent over last year’s figures, signaling a major uptick in fossil fuel exports from Siberia’s icy polar coast. At present, shipping tonnage via the route is poised to reach 30 million tons by the end of this year and up from the 20 million tons reported in 2018. Most of the cargo is from the Yamal LNG project and oil fields run by Russia’s state hydrocarbon giant Gazprom. Coal also figures heavily in the new statistics.

This decision has sparked concerns amongst the environmentalists and Greenpeace has described the project as a “nuclear Titanic” and “Chernobyl on ice”. Neighboring countries including Norway have successfully lobbied Rosatom not to load nuclear fuel on to the platform until after it is towed away from their borders. Russia advocates that the project will provide clean energy to the remote region and allow authorities to retire an ageing nuclear plant and a coal-burning power station. Greenpeace does not only fear the outcomes of this initiative but also thinks it has not only been built with a purpose of fulfilling the energy needs of Chukotka, but rather to serve it as a model for potential foreign buyers which can have serious implications.

Thomas Nilsen, the editor of the Barents Observer newspaper, based in the Norwegian town of Kirkenes, has estimated that by 2035, the Russian Arctic “will by far be the most nuclearised waters on the planet”. According to reporting from the Barents Observer, Rosatom’s shipping figures for this year include 17.5 tons of oil, 23 million tons of coal and 41 million tons of LNG. The U.N. meanwhile said on Tuesday that the world is at a pace for a temperature rise of nearly four degrees Celsius by the end of this century.