Staunton, May 6 – Greenpeace Russia is warning that the new floating atomic energy station, “the Academic Lomonosov,” the Russian authorities have launched to provide energy along the Northern Sea Route could become “a floating Fukushima” because of the inherent problems of nuclear power and the extreme climatic conditions of the Arctic.
The ship, under construction since 2009 in the St. Petersburg yards, is the first of its kind in the world; and in the years since Moscow announced that it saw such a vessel as the only way to bring power to isolated portions of the northern coast of Russia, many have raised questions about its safety (greenpeace.org/russia/ru/campaigns/nuclear/floating-atomic-power-stations/).
Greenpeace Russia is concerned not only about radiation leaks or an even more serious accident or terrorist attack but also about the danger that Russia hopes to use this ship as a model of what it hopes to sell to other countries where any original controls might be even weaker and the risks of disaster thus even greater.
Among these countries are Malaysia, Indonesia, South Korea, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, India, Vietnam and Cape Verde. Rosatom plans to sell licenses to these countries. It also hopes to sell licenses or the additional versions of this ship to Brazil, Uruguay and Chile, Greenpeace Russia says.
Rashid Alimov, a specialist on energy sources at Greenpeace Russia, tells Radio Liberty that “the world remembers the Chernobyl catastrophe and the accident at Fukusima. We understand that any atomic power station produces radioactive wastes and can explode, but a floating one is more at risk of accidents and from terrorists” (svoboda.org/a/29206734.html).
Moreover, the Russians have chosen to send the ship into the extreme conditions of the Arctic where if an accident happens, it will have larger consequences and be beyond the reach of many things that would be necessary to deal with one, Alimov continues. There simply is no infrastructure in the Chukchi region for that.
The expert notes that Greenpeace Russia is far from the only group against this project. At one time, the Green Cross environmental group made a detailed study and concluded that the floating atomic energy station would constitute a serious risk for the world. Alternative means of power generation are possible and should be used, Alimov says.
What is especially worrisome, he continues, is that the floating atomic power station will have to be brought back to St. Petersburg every three years for new fuel, an action that experience has shown is one that can be the occasion for serious problems for the territories along its route and also when the reactor is shut down.