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Russia’s first floating nuclear power plant begins tests, but when will it get its uranium? via Bellona

St Petersburg’s Baltic Shipyard has announced it will begin a series of tests on Russia’s first floating nuclear power plant in a move that could include fueling its two reactors with uranium in the middle of a city of 5 million people.

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The prospective fueling operation has drawn the ire of environmental groups and some politicians who say the procedure should be postponed until officials can inform the public about potential dangers. For its part, the city government has not been keen to press Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom or the Baltic Shipyard over the perceived safety issues.

The Akademic Lomonosov, as the floating plant is called, has been under fitful construction for the last 13 years. Its keel was laid at the Sevmash shipyard near Severodvinsk in 2006 in, but the vessel was moved under hints of scandal to the Baltic Shipyard in 2008.

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When it arrives, it will replace the nuclear power supplied to the remote Chukotka Autonomous Republic by the Bilibino Nuclear Power Plant, which Rosatom plans subsequently to decommission.

Rosenergoatom, Russia’s nuclear utility, announced in May that Akademic Lomonosov would be fueled by December. That hasn’t happened, and the utility has since remained stubbornly silent about when, exactly, the fueling operation will begin.

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But the thought of an accident during fueling isn’t what bothers Andrey Zolotkov, a nuclear advisor with Bellona in Murmansk. He pointed again to Russia’s nuclear icebreakers – both their construction at the Baltic Shipyard, and their frequent refueling in icy seasons at Atomflot, their port, which itself is only four kilometers from Murmansk and its population of 300,000.

“Of course, its better to fuel away from populated areas, but let’s look at what we really have – all of the icebreakers besides the Lenin and Sevmorput left the Baltic Shipyard with functioning nuclear energy installations,” he said, and added that none of Atomflot’s refuelings have ever resulted in an accident.

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