The plant’s head, Yury Kolomtsev, announced Monday that construction on the new plant would begin in 2009 and that it’s primary purpose would be to power efforts to develop the Shtokman field, regarded by Russia and its European partners as a oil and gas bonanza located under the Arctic waters of the Barents Sea.
Kolomtsev said that they new power plant would be built 10 kilometres from the existing one, though no decisions have been taken about what kind of reactor will be used at the new plant, the Barents Observer reported.
Rosenergoatom, Russia’s nuclear energy utility, also confirmed that the build was going forth. The utility has already signed an agreement with the Murmansk Regional Administration.
Bellona, as well as other environmental organisations – to say nothing of the population of the area – have spoken up loudly against building the new plant, especially in conjunction with its projected use for powering Shtokman development.
As it stands, one of the current Kola Nuclear Power Plant’s reactors is limping along on a engineering lifespan extension issued by the state. Kolomtsev said that the plant was now applying for another extension for its oldest reactor.
An entire new plant in one area of Russia that is still suffering the woes of Russia’s Cold War submarine fleet is more than many are willing to bear.
What this means to Bellona, other environmental groups and 85 percent of the population of the Murmansk Region that have spoken how against further nuclear power development, according to the Romir polling agency, is a dangerous collision of one environmentally polluting industry and another.
The preparedness of local emergency services to deal with oil spill is questionable, and non of the companies involved in the Shtokman project can boast experience drilling in a climate as harsh as the one they will be confronted with in the fragile Arctic waters.
And another nuclear power plant will only add to the amount of spent nuclear fuel in Russia for which no adequate storage solution has yet been found.
Photo: RosatomGazprom, Russia giant gas and oil utility – which owns 51 percent of the international consortium of France’s Total Oil and StatoilHydro of Norway – has also pushed for the use of floating nuclear power plants to supply energy in tapping the estimated 3.5 trillion cubic metres of gas and oil estimated to be below the Barents Sea floor.
Despite the outpouring of public opposition to more nuclear power development in the region – which Romir’s poll revealed in February – Kolomtsev’s Monday announcement seems to have sealed the deal regardless of what the local population thinks.
“The results of the poll demonstrate the population’s concern with the government’s plans for the development of nuclear energy and the construction of new nuclear power plants,” said Andrei Ponomarenko, coordinator of nuclear and radiation safety projects with Bellona-Murmansk at the time of the poll’s release.
The Murmansk-based Nature and Youth environmental organisation suggested that any further nuclear build-up in the area be put to a vote.
We insist that any project of the nuclear industry in the Murmansk Region not be realised without a popular referendum” he said when the poll was released.
“This concerns also concerns the life extension plans for the two old reactors at the Kola nuclear power plant, which are now working beyond their engineered life expectancy.”