Russia launched its first floating nuclear power plant Friday, with plans to transport the vessel some 3,000 miles to the far eastern autonomous region of Chukotka, the country’s nuclear agency said.
The Akademik Lomonosov is traveling with the nuclear power plant operational for the first time. Russia plans to use the vessel to provide power to remote areas, including offshore oil rigs in the Arctic.
It left Russia’s arctic region of Murmansk for what’s expected to be a monthlong voyage.
The Akademik Lomonosov is equipped with two reactor units, each capable of supplying 35 megawatts of power, and can power a town with a population of about 100,000.
Russia’s nuclear agency, Rosenergoatom, expects the vessel to have a 40-year lifespan.
The Akademik Lomonosov was first launched — without its nuclear power capabilities — in spring 2018. Environmental organization Greenpeace protested the vessel and its future capabilities, calling it “Chernobyl on ice,” a reference to the 1986 nuclear disaster in modern-day Ukraine.
“This power plant basically moves the threat of a nuclear catastrophe into fragile Arctic waters,” Jan Haveramp, a nuclear expert for Greenpeace Central and Eastern Europe, said at the time. “With its flat-bottomed hull and lack of self-propulsion it’s like balancing a nuclear power plant on a wooden palette and setting it adrift in some of the world’s roughest waters.”
This isn’t the first operational, floating nuclear power plant in history. The U.S. Army used one called the MH-1A Sturgis during operations at the Panama Canal from 1968 to 1976.