Floating nuclear power plant will not be fuelled and launched in St. Petersburg

Feature story - 22 July, 2017
Rosatom gives up the plan to fuel and launch the reactors at the floating nuclear power plant Akademik Lomonosov in the centre of St. Petersburg. The vessel will be towed empty to Murmansk. Over 11,000 people have signed the petition against Rosatom’s initial plan.

On Friday evening, the Russian state corporation Rosatom announced, that two reactors of the floating nuclear power plant (FNPP) Akademik Lomonosov that is under construction in the centre of St. Petersburg will be fuelled and activated in the city of Murmansk in the North-West of Russia. After the construction of the vessel is completed at the Baltic Shipyard, it will be towed to the base of Rosatomflot, the Rosatom subsidiary, without nuclear fuel in the reactors.   

By this decision, Rosatom responded partially to the demand of more than 11,000 people who had signed the Greenpeace petition against dangerous operations in the centre of a five-million city.  

Rosatom’s initial plans to tow the FNPP via the Baltic sea and along the Norwegian coast evoked serious concerns in the Finland and Scandinavia. Norway’s foreign minister Børge Brende has publicly expressed his concerns and discussed the situation with the Russian authorities. The head of the Finnish nuclear regulator STUK Petteri Tiippana visited the Baltic Shipyard earlier this week to ask questions about the safety measures at the FNPP.

“The law of the sea did not ‘catch up’ with our engineering solutions. It doesn’t even have the concept of a ‘non-self-propelled floating nuclear facility’”, said Alexey Likhachev, Rosatom general director, explaining the corporation’s decision. ”That is why many of the questions that our neighbours and partners in the Baltic region cannot be legally resolved”.

The pressure from local people in St. Petersburg was increasing while witnessing the lack of responsibility of the nuclear corporation wanting to load and test the Akademik Lomonosov’s two reactors in the center of the city a mere three kilometres from the Hermitage and two kilometres from the famous St. Isaac’s Cathedral . In July, two scandals shocked the city residents:

A fire happened on the FNPP and later, the media reported a nuclear waste leakage in another Rosatom subsidiary, the Khlopin Radium Institute, that the institution authorities concealed for five years.  

“Thousands of St. Petersburg residents opposed what can only be described as a dangerous nuclear experiment, and they were heard. That proves that people clearly understand the risks that they could have been exposed to, and stand for their rights”, says Rashid Alimov, coordinator of the Greenpeace Russia anti-nuclear project.

Greenpeace’s further demands, an environmental impact assessment of the construction, fuel loading, testing, transport and operation of the nuclear power plant including a comparison with less risky and clean alternatives in the form of energy efficiency measures and the use of renewable energy sources in Russian Arctic province Chukotka - the final destination of the power station, and full and unlimited regulatory oversight over the entire process by nuclear regulator Rostechnadzor, remain standing.

Jan Haverkamp, expert consultant on nuclear energy for Greenpeace Central and Eastern Europe: “It is good that Rosatom was brought to its senses about performing such risky actions in the center of a mega-city. However, also the works in Murmansk are not submitted to full and independent regulatory oversight yet, and the transport of loaded nuclear reactors along Russia’s Northern coast remains risky. We call on Russia and the Arctic Council [2] to carry out an Arctic Environmental Impact Assessment before construction of the Akademik Lomonosov will be continued in Murmansk.”

Alimov concluded: “Greenpeace still considers the very concept of a floating nuclear power plant too dangerous and a senseless technological solution”.

Contacts for the media:

Jan Haverkamp, expert consultant on nuclear energy for Greenpeace CEE
; +31 621 334 619

Andrey Allakhverdov, Greenpeace CEE communications officer
; +48 737 461 381

[1] The Akademik Lomonosov is to be the first of a fleet of floating nuclear plants to be constructed in St. Petersburg to power primarily mining and new industrial activities in the Russian Arctic region.

[2] The Arctic Council is an international organisation that consist of all Arctic states. It was founded to facilitate cooperation in issues concerning the development of the Arctic region and its environmental protection.