Tromso (Norway), May 3 (ANI): Russia is planning to build a fleet of floating and submersible nuclear power stations to exploit Arctic oil and gas reserves.
This is causing widespread alarm among environmentalists, reports The Guardian. prototype floating nuclear power station being constructed at the SevMash shipyard in Severodvinsk is due to be completed next year.
An agreement to build a further four was reached between the Russian state nuclear corporation, Rosatom, and the northern Siberian republic of Yakutiya in February.
The 70-megawatt plants, each of which would consist of two reactors on board giant steel platforms, would provide power to Gazprom, Russia's largest oil firm.
The building of the nuclear power stations would allow Gazprom to power drills needed to exploit some of the remotest oil and gas fields in the world in the Barents and Kara seas.
The self-propelled vessels would store their own waste and fuel and would need to be serviced only once every 12 to 14 years.
In addition, designers are known to have developed submarine nuclear-powered drilling rigs that could allow eight wells to be drilled at a time.
Bellona, a leading Scandinavian environmental watchdog group, yesterday condemned the idea of using nuclear power to open the Arctic to oil, gas and mineral production, terming it as a highly risky proposition.
Environmentalists also fear that if additional radioactive waste is produced, it will be dumped into the sea.
Russia has a long record of polluting the Arctic with radioactive waste.
Countries including Britain have had to offer Russia billions of dollars to decommission more than 160 nuclear submarines, but at least 12 nuclear reactors have been dumped, along with more than 5,000 containers of solid and liquid nuclear waste, on the northern coast and on the island of Novaya Zemlya.
The US Geological Survey believes the Arctic holds up to 25 percent of the world's undiscovered oil and gas reserves, leading some experts to call the region the next Saudi Arabia.
The technological exploitation of the region is next to impossible due to sea ice, strong winds and temperatures that can dip to below -50C.
Russia, Norway, Denmark, Canada and the US have all claimed large areas of the Arctic in the past five years. But many countries bordering the Arctic see climate change as the chance to exploit areas that were once inaccessible and to open trade routes between the Pacific and Atlantic. (ANI)