A number of countries, including China and the US have worked on offshore nuclear reactors. The new entrant to the group is Russia, which on April 30, launched its own floating nuclear power plant. The plant, called Academik Locomonosov, can produce 70 megawatts and will be towed to a Russian town called Murmansk. After reaching the town, it will take on nuclear fuel and make way to the Arctic to power the town of Pevek, which has oil industries and has a population of about 100,000.
The Academik Locomonosov was in the works since 2007 and reportedly cost $232 million to construct. Rosatom, a state-run company that owns the plant, had initially planned to load fuel to the reactor a St Petersburg before sending it to Pevek. However, several Baltic states and Greenpeace petitioned against it and forced the Rosatom to test it in Murmansk.
The ship itself doesn’t have any propulsion system and relies on being towed away to its destination. After reaching Pevek, it will power the town, a desalinization plant and oil rigs. Rosatom claims that the ship will replace the existing Bilibino nuclear power plant which currently powers the region and was built in 1974.
While the arrival of a new power plant might be good news for the residents in Pevek, environmentalists are concerned that the floating nuclear plant could be a recipe for disaster if it faces harsh weather. Greenpeace nuclear expert Jan Haverkamp is worried about the ship’s flat hull and absence of a propulsion system, despite its plans of being anchored in shallow waters. "Moving the testing of this 'nuclear Titanic' away from the public eye will not make [the testing less irresponsible]," said Haverkamp. "Nuclear reactors bobbing around the Arctic Ocean will pose a shockingly obvious threat to a fragile environment which is already under enormous pressure from climate change."