Floating nuclear plant reached Murmansk

Russian floating nuclear power plant Akademik Lomonsov arrived in the Arctic port of Murmansk over the weekend after a 2,500-mile journey from St Petersburg that began on May 1st.

The arrival of the $480m Akademik Lomonosov was greeted by a ceremony attended by Rosatom chief Alesky Likhachev, who also received a letter from Greenpeace and other environmental groups urging that corporation adhere strictly to safety standards in the plant’s fueling and operation.

The plant has been moored at Russia’s nuclear icebreaker port Atomflot. It will be fueled in July before undergoing several months of tests. Next summer the Akademik Lomosov will be towed once again to its final destination of Pevek, in Chukotka, on the Russian side of the Bering Strait.

Russia’s state nuclear corporation Rosatom sees floating nuclear plants with mobile, small-capacity reactors, part of its strategy to boost energy reserves to remote regions, especially in the Arctic. However, environmentalists have pointed out the essential vulnerabilities of far-flung sea-borne nuclear installations, which present difficulties for emergency response, spent nuclear fuel handling and radioactive waste disposal.

Rosatom said that the plant constitute a victory in the battle against climate change and harmful emissions. It said that the new plant would provide power not only to the port of Pevek, but also to oil rigs.

But while Rosatom says that the Akademik Lomonosov is protected against tsunamis, tornadoes, and other acts of God, Greenpeace has called it “a Chernobyl on ice”.

Initially billed as the next step in nuclear power, few of the countries Rosatom initially saw as customers for its 140-metre vessels came forward with orders. Currently only Sudan is reported to be considering a purchase.

Akademik Lomonsov’s keel was laid at the Sevmash shipyard near Severodvinsk in 2006, before being moved to the Baltic Shipyard in 2008. After arriving there, it suffered lawsuits, bankruptcy proceedings, property disputes, labour disagreements, budget shortfalls and regular. Its arrival in Murmansk was an entire decade behind schedule, at double its initially estimated cost.