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DATE: May 19, 2018

SNIP: To meet its growing electricity needs in its drive to develop oil resources in remote Arctic regions, Russia has built a floating nuclear power station, a project that detractors deride as a “Chernobyl on ice”.

Built in Saint Petersburg, the Akademik Lomonosov is currently moored in Murmansk where it is being loaded with nuclear fuel before heading to eastern Siberia.

“I hope today will be a symbolic day for the Arctic,” Rosatom chief Alexei Likhachev said, adding that Rosatom “is setting a trend, a demand for medium-capacity nuclear facilities, mobile facilities, for many decades ahead.”

As Russia is forced to push further north into the Arctic in the search for oil and gas, it needs electricity in far-flung locations.

“The idea is to have low-capacity, mobile power plants that can be used in the Russian Arctic where large amounts of electricity aren’t needed” and the construction of a conventional power station would be complicated and costly, said Sergei Kondratyev at the Institute for Energy and Finance in Moscow.

Trutnev said the barge has “the latest security systems and should be one of the safest nuclear installations in the world.”

Activists at the environmental group Greenpeace are not convinced and call for international monitoring.

They fear that the Akademik Lomonosov could become a “nuclear Titanic” or a “Chernobyl on ice” 32 years after the Soviet nuclear disaster.

Greenpeace Russia’s Rashid Alimov said that accidents are possible at all nuclear power plants, but that the barge “will be especially sensitive to storms, environmental phenomena and threats such as terrorism.”

He said a shift to more numerous small reactors would pose risks for proliferation of nuclear material.

Rosatom chief Likhachev said Saturday that the corporation hopes to build more such barges and to find Asian clients in need of power in remote regions, giving the examples of Indonesia and Philippines.

He said China is also building a floating nuclear power plant.