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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia Plans To Build a Floating Power Plant

Nuclear Power Minister Yevgeny Adamov said a floating nuclear power plant will be built in the northwestern town of Severodvinsk — a move that was immediately branded by environmentalists Wednesday as a breach of federal laws and a danger for locals.

Adamov said Tuesday that the plant will generate 70 megawatts of power and 50 gigacalories of heat and supply electricity to Severodvinsk and the Northern Machine-Building Plant, the city's biggest power consumer and Russia's largest submarine builder.

Nuclear Power Ministry spokesman Yury Bespalko said Wednesday that the plant will cost $109.7 million.

Although he did not say who would finance the project, another ministry source said the investment will be provided by the ministry itself.

The Severodvinsk plant will be built under the same blueprints that had been drawn up in 1998 for another floating nuclear power plant in the Far East, the source said.

That project, for a station in Pevek, Chukotka, was frozen amid financial problems in the region. It had passed the stage of feasibility studies and parts have even been ordered from the Izhorskiye Plant in St. Petersburg.

The Pevek plans, which were prepared by the Nizhny Novgorod-based OKB Mashinostroyeniye factory, will be modified for the Severodvinsk location, the Nuclear Power Ministry source said.

Feasibility studies for the Severodvinsk plant are scheduled to be completed by the end of 2001.

Environmentalists, who have long campaigned against the Far East project as a violation of the law, said Adamov's announcement came as a shock.

"Nothing has changed since then in that law," said Ivan Blokov, spokesman for the Moscow office of Greenpeace. "It still stipulates that 'the location, drafting and construction of nuclear power plants is prohibited … in the vicinity of bodies of water of federal significance.'"

The planned Severodvinsk plant is to float on the Severnaya Dvina River near the White Sea. It is located in the Arkhangelsk region, east of Murmansk and Scandinavia.

"Undoubtedly, the White Sea and Severnaya Dvina are bodies of water of federal significance," Blokov said.

Alexei Yablokov, environmental adviser to former President Boris Yeltsin, added: "In choosing between the two evils, the Pevek station in Chukotka would have been a better evil because it would have caused less damage [if a disaster occurred]. Here, it is too close to the center of Russia and to the Scandinavian countries."

Thomas Nilsen, spokesman for the Bellona environmental organization, said he is worried about the local residents most of all.

"I was in Severodvinsk a few years ago," he said. "The block of flats are just a few hundred meters away from the place where the plant will be built. It is very dangerous — in the case of even a minor accident that would release radioactive steam from the plant, no one would be able to warn people, or to manage to evacuate them."

A ministry source close to the $270 million Pevek project said construction was put on hold purely for economic reasons: The region appeared to be unable to pay for the electricity that the plant was supposed to generate.

The impoverishment of the region was not clear in 1995 when the project was initiated, said the source.