Russia's floating nukes to power oil and gas extraction in Arctic Ocean

Russia has launched the first in a series of at least seven small-sized floating nuclear power stations largely to power its Gazprom’s massive expansion of offshore oil and gas extraction in the Arctic Ocean. The floating atomic power plants will also power new and renovated Russian military bases in the globally strategic region.

The “Akademik Lomonosov” carries two KLT-40S small modular pressurized water reactors rated at 35 megawatts electric each (MWe). The atomic power reactors are built into a 500-foot long, 21,500-ton barge currently being towed by tug boats from St. Petersburg to Murmansk, Russia. Once in Murmansk, the Lomonosov reactors will be loaded with enriched uranium fuel, low power tested and towed further to Russia’s northernmost Arctic region. There, the floating atomic power station is to be moored offshore from the port city of Pevek on the Northern Sea Route. It is scheduled to begin full power production (70 MWe) in 2019. Pevek, once a center in the former Soviet Gulag for seven large hard labor camps where prisoners mined uranium, is now a modernized city.

The concept of a floating nuclear reactor is not a new. The United States was the first country to deploy a floating nuclear power plant in 1968. The 10 MWe MH-1A was an early pressurized water reactor retrofitted into a Liberty ship, the Sturgis. The Sturgis was to supply electrical power to the Panama Canal. The Sturgis operated only eight years before it was permanently closed as too expensive to maintain. In 1971, the U.S.-based Westinghouse Corporation briefly revived the concept building a central manufacturing facility in Florida for 1200 MWe Pressurized Water Reactors using a notoriously thin shelled containment structure. The reactor was to be placed on a barge and towed out to sea up where it would be moored off the coastline beyond controversial emergency planning zones. New Jersey utilities were the first to enthusiastically embrace the plan without fully appreciating the unique concerns the concept  added to already apparent siting issues from land based reactors. Ship collisions, barges sinking, fishing ground impacts and a host of regulatory concerns clashed with national and international law and inter-agency authority including the US Coast Guard. The U.S. Government Accounting Office issued a report criticizing federal regulators for not even analyzing the impacts of meltdown through the barge on the ocean environment. It added up to failure with no utility orders, the unwillingness of states to site facilities in coastal waters and the failure of a government bailout to finance construction.  

The KLT-40S nuclear power reactor is significant because it is Russia’s first small modular reactor (SMR) design originally intended to be manufactured on an assembly line and mass marketed for international export to power large coastal cities where the reactors could be moored offshore.  While the Russian state-owned nuclear power industry, Rosatom, promotes the technology as proven, reliable and safe, the KLT-40S is based on a previous design, the KLT-40M, that powers Russian icebreakers not without accidents. In 2011, one of those icebreakers, the Taimyr, experienced a radioactive release to the atmosphere from the reactor’s primary cooling system prompting the crew to abandon its mission and make an emergency return to port. Greenpeace International aptly identifies the five key reasons why floating nuclear power stations are still a bad idea; 1) it’s an accident waiting to happen; 2) such a catastrophe at sea will be extremely difficult to manage with significant environmental consequences; 3) there is already a terrible track record of accidents involving nuclear ships, ice breakers and submarines; 4) these reactors will be a nuclear dumping ground on water and; 5) using nuclear power to extract fossil fuels is the worst of all worlds.


Nuclear deterrence is used to justify the possession of nuclear weapons. But it's a myth.

In our new pamphlet, we lay out the arguments about why nuclear deterrence is a myth used to justify the continued possession -- and threatened use -- of nuclear weapons. In the current controversy over the Iran nuclear deal, it has become ever more important to understand the agendas behind the nuclear powers' arguments that only they should have -- and need -- nuclear weapons, the basis used to excuse expanding nuclear arsenals at a time when the world should be disarming.

Read our blog article at Beyond Nuclear International.

Please download and distribute the Myth of Deterrence pamphlet.


Why the press should stop quoting the IAEA and the WHO

From IPPNW report, Health Effects of Chernobyl 25 years after the reactor catastrophe:

Note on the unreliability of official data published 
by WHO and IAEA 

At the “Chernobyl Forum of the United Nations” organised in September 2005 by the International Atomic Energy Agency and the World Health Organisation, the presentation of the results of work on the effects of Chernobyl showed serious inconsistencies. For example: the press release of the WHO and IAEA stated that in the future, at most, 4,000 surplus fatalities due to cancer and leukaemia amongst the most severely affected groups of people might be expected. In the WHO report on which this was based however, the actual number of deaths is given as 8,930. These deaths were not mentioned in any newspaper articles. When one examines the source quoted in the WHO report, one arrives at a number between 10,000 and 25,000 additional fatalities due to cancer and leukaemia. 

Given this it can be rationally concluded that the official statements of the IAEA and the WHO have manipulated their own data. Their representation of the effects of Chernobyl has little to do with reality. 

The Chernobyl Forum also does not take into account that even UNSCEAR has estimated that the collective dose (the usual measurement for radiation damage) for Europe outside the region of the former Soviet Union is higher than the corresponding data for the Chernobyl region. The collective dose from the catastrophe was distributed to 53% throughout Europe, 36% throughout the affected regions in the Soviet Union, 8% in Asia, 2% in Africa and 0.3% in America. 

S. Pflugbeil pointed out already in 2005 that there were discrepancies between press releases, the WHO report and the source quoted in it (Cardis et al.). Up until now neither the Chernobyl Forum, IAEA nor the WHO have deemed it necessary to let the public know that, on the basis of their own analysis, a two to five-fold higher number of deaths due to cancer and leukaemia are to be expected as the figures they have published. 

Even in 2011 – some 5 years on – no official UN organisation has as yet corrected these figures. The latest UNSCEAR publication on the health effects of Chernobyl does not take into account any of the numerous results of research into the effects of Chernobyl from the three countries affected. Only one figure – that of 6,000 cases of thyroid cancer among children and juveniles, and leukaemia and cataracts in liquidators – was included in their recent information to the media. Thus, in 2011 the UNSCEAR committee declared: On the basis of studies carried out during the last 20 years, as well as of previous UNSCEAR reports, UNSCEAR has come to the conclusion that the large majority of the population has no reason to fear that serious health risks will arise from the Chernobyl accident. The only exception applies to those exposed to radioiodine during childhood or youth and to liquidators who were exposed to a high dose of radiation and therefore had to reckon with a higher radiation-induced risk. 


New Beyond Nuclear Thunderbird lays out Chernobyl facts

Many myths abound about the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Even now, 32 years later, the so-called "facts" are usually focused on how few people immediately died, a completely misleading statistic since nuclear power plant disasters do not usually kill people instantly. But over the long-term, their legacy is indeed both considerable and often deadly.

In the newest edition of our periodic Thunderbird newsletter, we look at the facts about the Chernobyl disaster and debunk the many falsehoods that endeavor to downplay or even dismiss the deadly April 26, 1986 nuclear power plant accident whose legacy still causes harm today. Children continue to be born with Chernobyl-related birth defects and illnesses as the damage is passed through DNA. The radioactive contamination of land appears to be worse in some places. Wildlife are serving as sentinels as not only tumors, but smaller brain sizes, shortened life spans and sterility, among other impactsm, are observed.

See our story at Beyond Nuclear International and download Chernobyl: The Facts, to learn more. 


The women who blocked Russian nuclear deal in South Africa win Goldman Prize

Super good news and well deserved -- the announcement that two women activists from South Africa, Makoma Lekalakala and Liz McDaid (pictured), who relentlessly pursued and uncovered an illegal Russian nuclear power deal with their homeland South Africa, have won the prestigious Goldman environment prize.

As The Guardian's Jonathan Watts describes it, reporting from Cape Town: "Two grassroots women activists – one black, one white – stand together against two of the world’s most powerful men – one black, one white – over a secret, undemocratic, multibillion dollar nuclear deal.

"If this was the plot of a Netflix series, it might be dismissed as too neat, too perfectly symbolic and symmetrical.

"But this is the true story of the two South African winners of this year’s Goldman environment prize who tapped their roots in the anti-apartheid struggle to take on and beat an agreement by their nation’s recently deposed leader Jacob Zuma and Russian president, Vladimir Putin."

Read the full article.