Russia To Produce Electricity with Former Nukes via Spiegel online

A billboard with a picture of smiling children heralds the arrival of a new nuclear age. “Zarechny — Our Nuclear City” is the sign that greets drivers entering this town 50 kilometers (30 miles) east of the Russian city of Yekaterinburg along a country road through a wooded landscape.

Flowerbeds line the streets of Zarechny. There is a fresh wreath laid at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and the town square draws children with its moon bounces and carousels. The only major street in this city of 30,000 forms a straight line leading to the premises of Beloyarsk, the nuclear power plant that has been providing crisis-proof jobs for local residents for over half a century.

Russia is proud of Beloyarsk. The plant’s third unit is a “fast reactor,” a reactor type that’s similar to the infamous “fast breeder reactor.” Following various spectacular breakdowns, nearly every country on Earth considers this technology barely controllable. Yet this small 600-megawatt reactor in the woods of the Urals has been generating power for 32 years, and has done so largely without event. It’s currently the only commercial fast reactor online at full capacity anywhere in the world.

Now a fourth unit is being built in Beloyarsk, also a fast reactor. It’s a facility with global political significance: Beloyarsk 4 is being built in the service of global peace. On July 13, 2011, a treaty between Russia and the United States came into effect, one that US President Barack Obama praised as a step toward making the world “safer and more secure.” Under the Plutonium Management and Disposition Treaty, the two nuclear superpowers resolved to destroy 68 metric tons of plutonium, enough to fill 17,000 nuclear warheads. Obama declared that the plutonium could be used to generate power for people in both countires.

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