Russia's 'floating Chernobyls' to go ahead despite green fears

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Russia is to press ahead with the world's first floating nuclear power station despite environmental concerns. The first "floating Chernobyl" could be ready in four years.

The Kremlin has approved the project and a shipyard in the far north of Russia, used to build nuclear submarines, will begin work next year. Rosenergoatom, the country's nuclear power agency, says it intends to build up to six mobile power stations, costing £182m each, the first scheduled for use in 2010.

Sergey Kiriyenko, the head of Rosenergoatom, said: "There will be no floating Chernobyl," referring to the 1986 nuclear disaster. Sergey Obozov, a senior official at the agency, said they would be "reliable as a Kalashnikov assault rifle, which are a benchmark of safety."

But environmentalists warned that the power stations could sink in stormy weather, and could become a target for terrorists. A report from Bellona Foundation, an independent Norwegian research group, claims the floating power stations are "a threat to the Arctic, the world's oceans, and the whole concept of non-proliferation."

The structures will supply heat and electricity to far-flung corners of Russia's far east and far north where it is difficult and expensive to ship coal and oil. Russia also wants to sell the structures to other countries, including China and India.

The structures will have a service life of 40 years, require a crew of 69 people, and could power a medium-sized town. The first power station will be moored in the White Sea off the town of Severodvinsk in Russia's northern Archangel region.