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

    Russian-Backed Offensive in Syria Pushes War to Tipping Point

    As threat to Aleppo and rebel forces grows, US plan to negotiate becomes less and less appealing for Syrian government, says one military analyst

    IS Runs Timber Smuggling Business in Afghanistan, Officials Say

    Government turning blind eye to smuggling, according to tribal leaders; Afghanistan's forest cover dropped by 50 percent in three decades, experts say

    Video White House Seeks $1.8 Billion to Combat Zika

    Obama administration says funding would 'support essential strategies to combat the virus' such as rapidly expanding mosquito control programs, accelerating vaccine research

    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.
    'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenyai
    X
    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Sanders, Clinton Battle for Young Democratic Vote

    Despite a narrow loss to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in last week's Iowa Democratic caucuses, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders secured more than 80 percent of the vote among those between the ages of 18 and 29. VOA correspondent Aru Pande talks to Democrats in New Hampshire about who they are leaning towards and why in this week's primary.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.