The Russians experienced a technical malfunction that caused an experimental nuclear reactor to catch fire Tuesday, the environmental group Greenpeace reports.
Rashid Alimov, head of Geenpeace Russia’s anti-nuclear project, said in a statement that although a 172 square foot area of the ship that carried the reactor was engulfed in flame, it could’ve been a lot worse. “This fire did not pose a nuclear risk, as the fuel is not in the reactors yet,” Alimov said.
The reactor, the Akademik Lomonosov, is one of the first in the world of its kind, and is estimated to cost up to $336 million, with powering capabilities of 70 megawatts of electricity. It was on its way to the Arctic to aid in the breaking of ice for Russia’s fleet, which has been steadily moving deeper into the north for several months.
According to Alimov, the fire reflects better Russian industrial standards.
“But it says a lot about the industrial culture of the Baltic Shipyards. It is good the fuel loading was delayed because the inspection in March found that the shipyards were not ready. We think it is a good time to step out from this project,” he said.
Russian state-run media denied any fire had occurred at all.
“There was no fire, only a mild smoke on shore near the Akademik Lomonosov floating NPP,” the St. Petersburg shipyard’s press service told the state-run Sputnik news agency. “The smoke was coming from a welding machine, and it had been put out even before the emergency response crew came to the scene.”
NATO nations Norway and Denmark were worried the reactors would be operational on the way to the Arctic, as they sail by their shores.
Russia plans on creating one of these floating reactors per year until 2028 as nuclear energy is a “major Russia policy and economic objective.”
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