News / Europe

    Russian Support for Nuclear Power Weakens as Chernobyl Anniversary Nears

    A general view of the sarcophagus covering the damaged fourth reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant February 24, 2011. Belarus, Ukraine and Russia will mark the 25th anniversary of the nuclear reactor explosion in Chernobyl, the place where the wor
    A general view of the sarcophagus covering the damaged fourth reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant February 24, 2011. Belarus, Ukraine and Russia will mark the 25th anniversary of the nuclear reactor explosion in Chernobyl, the place where the wor

    Multimedia

    Audio
    James Brooke

    Japan’s nuclear accident comes as Russia prepares for the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear explosion.  This combination may weaken support for nuclear energy in Russia, long a major nuclear advocate.

    A Soviet official hysterically bellowing that there is no accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant is not the face the Russia nuclear power industry would like to project to the world at this time of Japan’s nuclear leak in Fukushima.

    But the scene is featured in Innocent Saturday, a docudrama about the Chernobyl nuclear disaster that opened in movie theaters across Russia one month before the 25th anniversary of the explosion and fire at the Soviet power plant.

    The movie is banned in Belarus, the country that most suffered from the Chernobyl disaster.  Last week, Belarus authorities signed a $9.4 billion deal with neighboring Russia to build two nuclear reactors.

    The export deal is part of a drive to make Rosatom, Russia’s state-owned nuclear-power company, the leading builder of nuclear reactors around the world.  Building plants in Turkey, Bulgaria, India, China and Iran, Rosatom says it is building one quarter of the 60 nuclear power plants under construction worldwide.

    To help this sales effort, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev posted an eight-minute video on his website saying Russian designs offered "maximum safety barriers." He called for restrictions on construction of power plants in earthquake zones.

    But Russian environmentalists say that nuclear reactors are already in use in earthquake prone areas of the former Soviet Union, in Armenia, and in Rostov in Southern Russia.

    Domestically, Russia plans to build another 11 reactors during the next decade, raising the nuclear portion of the nation’s electricity from 16 to 25 percent.  Overseas, Rosatom wants triple sales, to $50 billion by 2030.

    The head of Russian environmental group Eco-Defense, Vladimir Slivyak, led an anti-nuclear protest Wednesday outside the headquarters of Rosatom in central Moscow.  He says of the company’s sales forecasts:

    "That is government propaganda.  I do not believe they are able to sell that amount of reactors per year or even per decade," he said. "The Russian government now needs to spread as much propaganda as possible to make Russian people believe that Russian nuclear industry is great, and much better than Western nuclear industry."

    Slivyak says that 11 of the 32 nuclear reactors working in Russia are of the Chernobyl era, built with designs from the 1970s.  One outside St. Petersburg, just had its working life extended for 15 years.

    Last week, in light of the nuclear accident in Japan, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin ordered an across the board review of nuclear safety in Russia.  But with electricity prices slated to rise by 15 percent this year, an election year, the government does not want to retire old reactors.

    Aging reactors are part of a wider problem.  Modern day Russia is coasting on infrastructure investments made during the final decades of the Soviet Union.

    A wakeup call came two summer ago, when turbine bolts broke at Sayano Shushenskaya Dam, the largest hydroelectric plant in Russia.  The ensuing water hammer pushed a 1,000-ton turbine into the air like a toy.  The accident took 75 lives and caused damage that will take four years to repair.  The accident was blamed on sloppy maintenance and metal fatigue in a plant installed 40 years ago.

    In Germany, Chancellor Merkel is suspending operation of seven aging nuclear plants pending the outcome of "stress tests."  The German leader made the move to head off a brewing anti-nuclear campaign.

    But Germany is far more densely populated in Russia.

    Here, in the world’s largest nation, the attitude toward nuclear power is often: out of sight, out of mind.

    Greenpeace Russia Campaign Director Ivan Blokov says local opposition is often strong.

    "Something like 75 percent to 92 percent of the population is totally against.  But when people do not see a nuclear power station in their backyard, they simply do not care," he said.

    But with the Chernobyl anniversary coinciding with balmy spring weather, bigger anti-nuclear protests may be in store for Russia.

    "On April 26th,  when the 25th anniversary of Chernobyl will happen, we are planning to organize bigger protests and probably more radical," says Vladimir Slivyak of Eco-Defense.

    The mix of radiation leaking from Japan’s damaged reactor compounded by the Chernobyl anniversary may shift public attitudes in Russia, currently one of the world’s strongest advocates of nuclear power.

    You May Like

    New EU Asylum Rules Could Boost Rightists

    New regulations will seek to correct EU failures in dealing with migrant crisis, most notably inability to get member states to absorb a total of 160,000 refugees

    More Political Turmoil Likely in Iraq as Iran Waits in the Wings

    Analysts warn that Tehran, even though it may not be engineering the Sadrist protests in Baghdad, is seeking to leverage its influence on its neighbor

    Forced Anal Testing Case to Appear Before Kenya Court

    Men challenge use of anal examinations to ‘prove homosexuality’; practice accomplishes nothing except to humiliate those subjected to them, according to Human Rights Watch

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Rulingi
    X
    May 03, 2016 5:16 PM
    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Tensions Rising Ahead of South China Sea Ruling

    As the Philippines awaits an international arbitration ruling on a challenge to China's claims to nearly all of the South China Sea, it is already becoming clear that regardless of which way the decision goes, the dispute is intensifying. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
    Video

    Video Painting Captures President Lincoln Assassination Aftermath

    A newly restored painting captures the moments following President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. It was recently unveiled at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, where America’s 16th president was shot. It is the only known painting by an eyewitness that captures the horror of that fateful night. VOA’s Julie Taboh tells us more about the painting and what it took to restore it to its original condition.
    Video

    Video Elephant Summit Results in $5M in Pledges, Presidential Support

    Attended and supported by three African presidents, a three-day anti-poaching summit has concluded in Kenya, resulting in $5 million in pledges and a united message to the world that elephants are worth more alive than dead. The summit culminated at the Nairobi National Park with the largest ivory burn in history. VOA’s Jill Craig attended the summit and has this report about the outcomes.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora