Russia floats barge for waterborne nuclear plant
Russia on Wednesday took a big step toward the controversial creation of the world's first floating nuclear power station, putting a barge that will house the plant into the water.
Environmentalists say Russia's plan to dot its northern coastline with floating nuclear power plants is risky.
The head of Russia's nuclear agency Rosatom, Sergei Kiriyenko, said the plant would be "absolutely safe" and predicted "big interest from foreign customers."
Nearly a quarter-century after the Chernobyl nuclear power station disaster in Soviet Ukraine, Russia is planning to expand its own network of nuclear power plants and pursuing deals to build more abroad.
The vessel housing the plant, which Kiriyenko said should be ready to operate late in 2012, was launched at the Baltiisky shipyard in Russia's Imperial-era capital on the Baltic Sea.
Kiriyenko said nuclear fuel for the plant would be loaded later in the Murmansk region, further north, and the station towed to its place of operation. It would be hauled away after 32 years of service, he said, leaving the surrounding area "the same as before the station arrives."
Environmentalists are not convinced.
"The danger begins when the reactor is installed and nuclear fuel put there," said Vladimir Chuprov, Greenpeace Russia's energy projects chief.
"If something goes wrong ... it could mean the nuclearization of several dozen hectares of land at a minimum and tens of thousands of people evacuated from the polluted area," he said.
Photo shows launching of barge. Credit Voice of Russia: http://english.ruvr.ru/2010/07/01/11166341.html
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