Energy

Russia’s Experimental Floating Nuclear Reactor Catches On Fire

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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An experimental floating nuclear reactor reportedly caught on fire in St. Petersburg, Russia Tuesday, according to the environmental group Greenpeace.

The fire engulfed about 172 square feet of the ship carrying the nuclear plant, but was relatively localized as the reactors were not yet fueled for their upcoming Arctic voyage.

The Akademik Lomonosov is the first of its kind in the world. Nobody was harmed in the blaze.

“This fire did not pose a nuclear risk, as the fuel is not in the reactors yet,” Rashid Alimov, head of Greenpeace Russia’s anti-nuclear project, said in a statement.

“But it says a lot about the industrial culture of the Baltic Shipyards. It is good the fuel loading was delayed because the inspection in March found that the Shipyards were not ready. We think it is a good time to step out from this project.”

Russia state-run media denied any fire had occurred.

“There was no fire, only a mild smoke on shore near the Akademik Lomonosov floating NPP,” the St. Petersburg shipyard’s press service told the state-run Sputnik news agency. “The smoke was coming from a welding machine, and it had been put out even before the emergency response crew came to the scene.” What shipyard?

A Swedish newspaper reported Monday Russia will tow the reactors past Norway, Denmark, Sweden and Finland on its way to the Arctic Ocean. Russia said the reactors will provide power for breaking ice to help clear shipping routes.

NATO nations Norway and Denmark had worried the reactors would be operational on the journey. The Akademik Lomonosov is estimated to cost $336 million and reportedly capable of generating 70 megawatts of electricity.

Some of the world’s first floating nuclear power plants are being developed in Russia. The country plans on completing one new large reactor per year, on average, until at least 2028. Nuclear technology and the services required to run it are a “major Russian policy and economic objective,” according to the World Nuclear Association.

Floating reactors are used to bring electricity to remote areas where power is needed while minimizing environmental impacts since they can resist earthquakes and tsunamis. Ocean water also can be used to cool reactors down in an emergency.

Standards for safety, security, and nonproliferation are far lower in Russia than in the U.S. Approving new nuclear reactors takes as little as two years in Russia. It took 43 years to build the newest U.S. newest nuclear reactor, which was racked by scandals, red tape and environmental concerns.

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