Quantcast

'Floating Chernobyl?' Nuclear Plant Heads Across Arctic Circle

Energy
A view of Akademik Lomonosov, a floating nuclear power unit, on June 14 in Mumansk, Russia. Lev Fedoseyev / TASS via Getty Images

By Eon Higgins

Its official name is the "Akademik Lomonosov," but critics call it a "floating Chernobyl."


Whichever title you prefer, the floating barge nuclear plant is heading across the Arctic Circle. A project of the Russian government, the plant is headed to the far eastern town of Pevek on Russia's Arctic north coast to provide power to energy projects in the North Pole.

According to CNN:

The Admiral Lomonosov will be the northernmost operating nuclear plant in the world, and it's key to plans to develop the region economically. About 2 million Russians reside near the Arctic coast in villages and towns similar to Pevek, settlements that are often reachable only by plane or ship, if the weather permits. But they generate as much as 20 percent of country's GDP and are key for Russian plans to tap into the hidden Arctic riches of oil and gas as Siberian reserves diminish.

The Lomonosov has been the target of criticism from Greenpeace for years. The environmental group first coined the name "Chernobyl on ice."

But the company behind Lomonosov, Rosatom, takes exception at comparing its barge plant to the famed site of the world's worse domestic nuclear disaster.

"It's totally not justified to compare these two projects," the Lomonosov's chief engineer for environmental protection, Vladimir Iriminku, told CNN. "These are baseless claims, just the way the reactors themselves operate work is different."

The barge's operators have learned from the disaster at Fukushima, Japan as well, they said.

"This rig can't be torn out of moorings, even with a 9-point tsunami, and we've even considered that if it does go inland, there is a backup system that can keep the reactor cooling for 24 hours without an electricity supply," said Lomonosov deputy director Dmitry Alekseenko.

Bellona, a nonprofit that observes nuclear projects and their environmental impacts, found in April that 24 hours could be insufficient time to avoid disaster if the rig was torn out of its moorings and landed somewhere where escape is difficult due to the polar environment.

In an interview with The Verge, Dale Klein, the former head of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission under President George W. Bush, called the plant's nickname a "scare tactic." However, Klein acknowledged that the potential for disaster from the Lomonosov could be catastrophic if something were to go wrong.

"If there were a problem out in the middle of the ocean, you would probably never see it on land," said Klein. "Or, you might be able to measure it, but it would be such a minimal impact [on land] because the ocean is so big. But if you have this barge that's anchored providing electricity 24 hours, seven days a week, and you had a spill, then it could get into the environment locally onshore."

"And so," said Klein, "you'd have to make sure that that never happens."

Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

An aerial view of a neighborhood destroyed by the Camp Fire on Nov. 15, 2018 in Paradise, Calif. Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Respecting scientists has never been a priority for the Trump Administration. Now, a new investigation from The Guardian revealed that Department of the Interior political appointees sought to play up carbon emissions from California's wildfires while hiding emissions from fossil fuels as a way to encourage more logging in the national forests controlled by the Interior department.

Read More
Slowing deforestation, planting more trees, and cutting emissions of non-carbon dioxide greenhouse gases like methane could cut another 0.5 degrees C or more off global warming by 2100. South_agency / E+ / Getty Images

By Dana Nuccitelli

Killer hurricanes, devastating wildfires, melting glaciers, and sunny-day flooding in more and more coastal areas around the world have birthed a fatalistic view cleverly dubbed by Mary Annaïse Heglar of the Natural Resources Defense Council as "de-nihilism." One manifestation: An increasing number of people appear to have grown doubtful about the possibility of staving-off climate disaster. However, a new interactive tool from a climate think tank and MIT Sloan shows that humanity could still meet the goals of the Paris agreement and limit global warming.

Read More
Sponsored
A baby burrowing owl perched outside its burrow on Marco Island, Florida. LagunaticPhoto / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Burrowing owls, which make their homes in small holes in the ground, are having a rough time in Florida. That's why Marco Island on the Gulf Coast passed a resolution to pay residents $250 to start an owl burrow in their front yard, as the Marco Eagle reported.

Read More
Amazon and other tech employees participate in the Global Climate Strike on Sept. 20, 2019 in Seattle, Washington. Amazon Employees for Climate Justice continue to protest today. Karen Ducey / Getty Images

Hundreds of Amazon workers publicly criticized the company's climate policies Sunday, showing open defiance of the company following its threats earlier this month to fire workers who speak out on climate change.

Read More
Locusts swarm from ground vegetation as people approach at Lerata village, near Archers Post in Samburu county, approximately 186 miles north of Nairobi, Kenya on Jan. 22. "Ravenous swarms" of desert locusts in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia threaten to ravage the entire East Africa subregion, the UN warned on Jan. 20. TONY KARUMBA / AFP / Getty Images

East Africa is facing its worst locust infestation in decades, and the climate crisis is partly to blame.

Read More