From the BBC:

In a grimy shipyard in St Petersburg, an ugly hulk of red-painted metal sits floating in the dock.

On deck, workmen scurry back and forth, hammering, drilling and welding.

This strange construction, part ship, part platform, is unique and lies at the heart of Russia’s grand ambitions for the Arctic.

When it is completed in 2012, it will be the first of eight floating nuclear power stations which the government wants to place along Russia’s north coast, well within the Arctic Circle.


“These [floating nuclear power stations] have very good potential, creating the conditions for exploring the Arctic shelf and setting up drilling platforms to extract oil and gas,” says Sergey Zavyalov, deputy director of the operating company, Rosenergoatom.

“Work in the Arctic is very complicated and dangerous and we should ensure there’s a reliable energy supply.”

He says each power station, costing $400m, can supply electricity and heating for communities of up to 45,000 people and can stay on location for 12 years before needing to be serviced back in St Petersburg.


“We can guarantee the safety of our units one hundred per cent, all risks are absolutely ruled out,” says Mr Zavyalov.


Although Moscow denies it’s setting up special military forces or bases to protect its interests in the Arctic, it is establishing a new coastguard under the control of the all-powerful intelligence agency, the FSB.


The route along the Northeast passage from Russia to Asia which is now opening up, is many days quicker than the traditional route via Europe, the Suez Canal and around India.

Although the ships still need to be escorted by ice-breakers, it is a tantalising opportunity for Russia which wants to sell more oil and gas to energy-hungry countries like China.

With some scientists predicting that there may be no ice at all in the summer by 2030, Russian officials are confident the Northeast passage will become a major route for energy supplies to Asia.

Ah, Russia, Russia, Russia.

Nearly every day you give me another reason to believe that your legendary winters freeze out any common sense you might’ve had.

Remember those nuclear powered lighthouses you dotted your northern frontier with? Remember how well those turned out for you?

And now you think that by repeating that exercise, only in much hasher environments, on a much bigger scale, is a brilliant idea?

You can’t even keep your own infrastructure from destroying itself, for Christ’s sake, and now you’re setting the stage for a disaster that will make the Deepwater Horizon seem insignificant in comparison.

But, it is quite the image of the future, isn’t it? Ships the size of city blocks, powered by atomic fire, moored to the ocean bed, floating on near-freezing seas during the summer, frozen in them during the winter. Millions of parts working together, billions of people praying nothing goes wrong. The crushing weight of statistical odds saying that something will.