World’s first floating nuclear plant faces unfair criticism

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Back in July, Energy Fairness wrote about Russia’s floating nuclear plant, the Akademik Lomonosov. The Akademik Lomonosov recently completed its 5,000-kilometer journey to Pevek, a port town on the remote Chukotka Peninsula in the Russian Artic. The plant will be fully online by the end of the year and will provide power to around 100,000 homes. The success of this project could be instrumental for the future of nuclear energy and how it is used in regions where other sources of electricity are not readily available.

Unfortunately the Akademik Lomonosov has received quite a bit of criticism from anti-nuclear groups such as Greenpeace who dubbed it “Chernobyl on ice.” Greenpeace’s bias against nuclear is well-known, but many of their concerns are unfounded. Accidents like Fukushima, Three Mile Island and Chernobyl have given nuclear energy a bad name, but it’s our cleanest form of baseload electricity. It seems irresponsible to reject a low-carbon energy source purely on the basis of past accidents when the world is currently seeking ways to reduce CO2 emissions.

Energy experts agree that nuclear energy has a critical role to play in the fight against climate change, however organizations like Greenpeace that claim to be promoting a sustainable future are holding back nuclear innovation. Scare tactics such as this are causing nuclear plants to close in much of the world, which seems counter-intuitive to carbon dioxide reduction goals.

Take Germany, for example; Germany’s commitment to closing nuclear plants coupled with its heavy investment in renewable energy has led to some of the highest power prices in the world, while having virtually no effect on emissions. France, on the other hand, has had the opposite experience, currently receiving around 70% of its power from nuclear and boasting the lowest emissions of any developed country. However, green groups have lambasted French president Emmanuel Macron for refusing to follow Germany’s example.

Fortunately nuclear energy has found support here in the U.S. Well known entrepreneur Bill Gates, for instance, has become vocal supporter of nuclear energy, pledging $1 billion of his own money to fund nuclear energy research. “Nuclear is ideal for dealing with climate change, because it is the only carbon-free, scalable energy source that’s available 24 hours a day,” says Gates. “The problems with today’s reactors, such as the risk of accidents, can be solved through innovation.” 

Supporters such as Gates are helping to drive innovation forward and new technologies like the Akademik Lomonosov are just the beginning. Nuclear energy’s past record might be less than perfect, but it has become one of our safest forms of energy. That’s good news since nuclear energy is just as a clean as renewables but has added advantages such as reliability and scaleability.

As we continue to discuss clean energy and decarbonization, nuclear must remain part of the conversation. Projects such as the Akademik Lomonosov could have amazing implications for the future of our power grid.The success of the world’s first floating nuclear plant is cause for celebration and we’re excited to see what comes next for the Akademik Lomonosov.