Russia’s first floating nuclear power plant heads towards the Arctic

The controversial plant will be loaded with nuclear fuel in Murmansk.

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This weekend, Russia’s first floating nuclear power plant left St. Petersburg, slowly making its way to Arctic waters.

The power plant, Akademik Lomonosov, was launched by Russia’s state nuclear corporation Rosatom, which is calling it the “world’s only floating power unit.” It is being towed towards Murmansk in northwestern Russia, where it will be loaded up with nuclear fuel. After that, the power plant will make its way to its permanent home in the port of Pevek, on Chukotka’s Arctic coast, where it will replace an existing land-based nuclear power installment.

According to a press release from Rosatom, the power plant’s two reactors can pump out 70 MW of electric energy.

“This is enough to keep the activity of the town populated with 100,000 people,” it reads.

Rosatom also claims that the floating power plant meets all the requirements of the International Atomic Energy Agency and does not “pose any threat to the environment,” a statement hotly debated by environmental advocacy group Greenpeace.

In a press release, Greenpeace referenced the 1986 Chernobyl accident, reminding readers of the nuclear radiation and years of cleanup that resulted after the power plant contaminated parts of Eastern Europe.

“If this development is not stopped, the next nuclear catastrophe could well be a Chernobyl on ice or a Chernobyl on-the-rocks,” the release reads.

Akademik Lomonosov has already run into some pushback during its nine years of construction, according to Greenpeace. In its statement, Greenpeace stated that Rosatom was initially going to load the power plant with nuclear fuel in St. Petersburg, but abandoned that plan after Baltic Sea countries and St. Petersburg citizens raised concerns.

Responding to these comments, Rosatom told Newsweek: “There is nothing new about nuclear reactors in the Arctic. It should be made clear that Greenpeace has not produced any peer-reviewed and credible evidence to support its claims.”