The world's first floating nuclear power station--a 21,500-metric-ton Russian vessel called the Akademik Lomonosov--is slowly making its way across the Arctic Ocean, on a multi-stage trip to its final destination in eastern Russia. People are not happy about it. Environmental and nuclear watchdogs worry the station could hit an iceberg and sink while crossing the Arctic, spilling nuclear fuel into the fragile northern ecosystem. Or it could run aground, fouling the landscape, or be tossed by waves in a storm, or even--once installed in the remote coastal town of Pevek, 53 miles across the Bering Strait from Alaska--be attacked by terrorists or fail for any number of other reasons. One need only look at Japan's Fukushima plant to see that water and nukes don't always mix.
Hitachi Ltd. is in the final stages of preparations to suspend a project to build a nuclear power plant in the U.K., it was learned Friday. The major heavy machinery-maker will confirm the move at a board meeting that could be held as early as next week, sources with knowledge of the matter said. Hitachi is settling on the suspension as it is unclear whether the company will be able to receive additional assistance from the U.K. government, the sources said. It has had difficulty finding investors for a subsidiary that will operate the plant amid concerns over profitability. The firm is expected to book up to about ¥300 billion in related losses in the business year through March, the sources said.
EDITOR'S NOTE: On March 28, 1979, the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant south of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, suffered a partial meltdown that instilled fear in hundreds of thousands of nearby residents and changed the way Americans viewed the technology. With the announcement Tuesday that Exelon Corp. plans to close the plant unless the state gives it some financial help, The Associated Press is republishing an April 8, 1979, story examining the day of the accident and the seven days that followed.
China is well on its way to becoming a world leader in nuclear power; its 37 reactors are already producing 32.4 gigawatts of electricity, and more than 20 more reactors are currently under construction. And now China wants to take the lead in building nuclear power plants in open waters. These floating plants could power oil rigs and islands off the coast, or travel to disaster-struck coasts to provide relief. Bobbing nuclear power plants are often mounted on a broad-beamed hull, and typically have 25 percent the capacity of their larger, land-based brethren. Those floating reactors can be positioned to coastal and offshore areas that quickly need power (such as areas devastated by tsunamis), or rented out to customers who urgently need a ready supply of electricity.
Hinkley Point, on the Somerset coast, is the biggest building site in Europe. Here, on 430 acres of muddy fields scattered with towering cranes and bright yellow diggers, the first new nuclear power station in the UK since 1995 is slowly taking shape. When it is finally completed, Hinkley Point C will be the most expensive power station in the world. But to reach that stage, it will need to overcome an extraordinary tangle of financial, political and technical difficulties. The project was first proposed almost four decades ago, and its progress has been glacial, having faced relentless opposition from politicians, academics and economists every step of the way.