Russian authorities are now promising that a highly controversial floating nuclear power plant won’t have used radioactive fuel on board while it’s being transported through the Baltic and all along Norway’s long coastline north to Murmansk next year. Norwegian Foreign Minister Børge Brende is relieved.
“This is in line with the requests of Norwegian authorities regarding secure cargoes,” Brende told newspaper Aftenposten over the weekend. His remarks came after the Kirkenes-based Independent Barents Observer had reported that fuel for the plant’s reactor won’t be taken on board (external link) until after the floating power plant arrives in Murmansk. The Barents Observer quoted Aleksej Likhachev, director of the state-owned Russian nuclear energy company Rosatom.
“I’m glad that Russian authorities and Rosatom have arrived at this decision,” Brende said. “We have been following this issue closely and worked hard to communicate Norwegian authorities’ views on securing the safest possible solution for transporting the nuclear power plant.”
Brende was also relieved that the Russians will transport the power plant on a heavy-lift vessel instead of towing it all the way around the Scandinavian peninsula and through potentially stormy seas off Norway’s West Coast. Brende said that had also been among Norway’s requests at a recent meeting of the annual Joint Norwegian-Russian Commission on Nuclear Safety.
Norway, Sweden, Finland and Denmark have all objected to the Russian plans to transport the floating nuclear power plant from the yard where it’s been built near St Petersburg up to Russia’s far northern areas in the Arctic, east of Murmansk. Brende, backed by other Nordic leaders, demanded answers from Russian authorities regarding the shipment of the floating plant called the Akademik Lomonosov.
Environmental organizations including Greenpeace in Russia and Bellona in Norway have also been highly critical of the project. Now it appears the following demands have been met: The power plant will not have fuel on board during transport, it won’t be towed and the nuclear fuel and power plant will be transported separately, at different times. The power plant itself is expected to be moved from St Petersburg to Murmansk either next spring or summer.
Brende was glad his requests for use of the same type of heavy-lift vessels that transport oil platforms had been met. Towing such a heavy and dangerous load as a nuclear power plant was deemed as far too risky given the high waves that can occur in the North-, Norwegian- and Barents seas.
Now Brende hopes the conflict, one of many with Russia in recent years, has been settled. Russia’s concessions, he noted, are in line with those posed by Norwegian experts, he said.