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Russian atomic engineers are determined to press ahead with a plan to build the world's first floating nuclear power station despite howls of disbelief and horror from environmentalists, who see potential not only for ecological catastrophe but also for a terrorist attack at sea.
The board of Russia's atomic energy agency, RosAtom, which met on May 25 to give the go-ahead, said it "could become a new direction in the development of atomic energy".
A ministry spokesman, Nikolai Shingaryov, told the Herald it would be a fullscale power station and would float on a barge in the White Sea off Severodvinsk in the Archangel region of northern Russian. It should be ready by 2010.
China and South Korea might well be persuaded to invest if Russia proves it has a market in the Third World for the floating stations. When they visited Moscow two years ago, delegations from Indonesia and India considered ordering similar power stations, but the two nations are reported to have cooled to the idea after the Boxing Day tsunami.
The Russians hope the floating nuclear power stations will solve the problem of supplying energy cheaply and easily to communities in remote regions.
The stations, which would be powered by small KLT-40 reactors - similar to those used on icebreakers - would be capable of generating 70 megawatts an hour, enough to provide heat and light for a medium-sized town.