Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Still afloat: floating nuclear reactors

Since I've started sharing six or seven years ago my concerns over Russian plans to build, operate and sell floating nuclear reactors (including my drafting and promotion jointly with Alexi Yablokov of an IUCN resolution that was adopted in 2004), I think a lot of people thought I was excessive.

Most people believed these floating nuclear reactors were just a scam mounted by clever Russian engineers who were very creatively ripping off public administrations and private investors with crazy plans that would never see the light. The dominating view a few years ago was that floating nuclear reactors would never exist beyond the drawing boards of a few mad Russian nuclear scientists.

So now I invite all floatingnukes-skeptics to watch the story the BBC has just released last night, which includes a video taken inside the St. Petersburg shipyard where the construction of the first of a series of nine floating nuclear reactors is underway, and set to be completed in 2012.

The Director of the company constructing that thing, Sergey Zavyalov has told the BBC "We can guarantee the safety of our units one hundred per cent, all risks are absolutely ruled out." One hundred per cent! All risks ruled out! Does this make you feel better? Isn't such a degree of self-confidence in an untested technology a little bit scary? One hundred per cent! This would be the first time it can be guaranteed that a floating object under extreme weather conditions cannot sink under any circumstances. One hundred per cent? What contingency measures are envisaged and will be in place in the remote areas where the nuclear reactors will be tugged? What safeguards against human errors and sabotage are also envisaged? (I'll stop here; the list of questions could be very long)

A few weeks ago, The Daily Telegraph also reported that Russia and China have signed a deal to further develop floating nuclear reactors. The story suggests that in addition to the Arctic, Antarctica is also envisaged as a place to deploy floating nuclear reactors to extract mineral resources (what do the Parties to the Antarctic Treaty and its Madrid Protocol think of this great idea?), and the Middle East too, to provide the energy necessary to desalinate water (what does the CIA, and Bin Laden, think of this other great idea?).

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