From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :
Prelims level : About the reactor
Mains level : Protective measures against nuclear hazards
- Recently, a Russian-built floating nuclear power plant completed its 5,000-km journey along the Northern Sea Route.
- This has sparked fears among environmentalists over the safety of the Arctic region.
- The Akademik Lomonosov is a first-of-its-kind floating nuclear power station built in St Petersburg, the Russian port city on the Gulf of Finland.
- Three tugboats pulled it from the northern port of Murmansk for 5,000 kilometres to Chukotka, in Russia’s far east.
- Named after the 18th-century Russian scientist Mikhail Lomonosov, the 21,000-tonne floating plant is 144 m long and 30 m wide, and contains two nuclear reactors of 35 MW each.
- It is a small plant compared to conventional land-based nuclear projects.
- Run by the state-owned nuclear energy corporation Rosatom, it is expected to have a working life of 40 years.
Why such a plant
- After it becomes operational next year, the plant will supply electricity to the Chukotka region, where important Russian national assets such as oil, gold, and coal reserves are located.
- Some 50,000 people currently live in the area, and get their electricity from a coal power station and an ageing nuclear power plant.
- The floating station would become the northernmost nuclear power project in the world.
- Electricity supplied by floating power stations, without long-duration contracts or massive investments, is an option that island nations could consider.
- Power from such small-sized plants can also be supplied to remote regions, as Russia plans to do.
- Additionally, it is argued that nuclear power plants are a more climate-friendly option than coal-fired plants that emit greenhouse gases.
Fears and apprehensions
- Environmental groups such as Greenpeace have criticised the project as a “Chernobyl on ice” and a “nuclear Titanic”.
- Activists fear that any accident aboard the plant could cause great damage to the fragile Arctic region.
- A recent nuclear accident in Russia after which there was a brief spike in radiation levels has added to the fears.
- The radiation fallout from the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan is also cited as a reason to not rush into such projects.