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

Turbulent Transition Imperils Tunisia’s Arab Spring Gains

Critics say new anti-terrorism laws worsen Tunisia's situation while others put faith in country’s vibrant civil organizations, women’s movement More

Burundi’s Political Crisis May Become Humanitarian One

United Nations aid agencies issue warning as deadly violence sends tens of thousands fleeing More

Yemenis Adjust to Life Under Houthi Rule

Locals want warring parties to strike deal to stop bloodletting before deciding how country is governed More

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.
Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threati
X
Greg Flakus
May 29, 2015 11:24 PM
Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video Texas Town Residents Told to 'Just Leave' Ahead of Flood Threat

Water from heavy rain in eastern and central Texas is now swelling rivers that flow into the Gulf of Mexico, threatening towns along their banks. VOA’s Greg Flakus visited the town of Wharton, southwest of Houston, where the Colorado River is close to cresting.
Video

Video New York's One World Trade Center Observatory Opens to Public

From New Jersey to Long Island, from Northern suburbs to the Atlantic Ocean, with all of New York City in-between.  That view became available to the public Friday as the One World Trade Center Observatory opened in New York -- atop the replacement for the buildings destroyed in the September 11, 2001, attacks.  VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Seoul Sponsors Korean Unification Fair

With inter-Korean relations deteriorating over the North’s nuclear program, past military provocations and human rights abuses, many Koreans still hold out hope for eventual peaceful re-unification. VOA’s Brian Padden visited a “unification fair” held this week in Seoul, where border communities promoted the benefits of increased cooperation.
Video

Video Purple Door Coffeeshop: Changing Lives One Cup at a Time

For a quarter of his life, Kevin Persons lived on the street. Today, he is working behind the counter of an espresso bar, serving coffee and working to transition off the streets and into a home. Paul Vargas reports for VOA.
Video

Video Modular Robot Getting Closer to Reality

A robot being developed at Carnegie Mellon University has evolved into a multi-legged modular mechanical snake, able to move over rugged surfaces and explore the surroundings. Scientists say such machines could someday help in search and rescue operations. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Shanghai Hosts Big Consumer Electronics Show

Electronic gadgets are a huge success in China, judging by the first Asian Consumer Electronics Show, held this week in Shanghai. Over the course of two days, more than 20,000 visitors watched, tested and played with useful and some less-useful electronic devices exhibited by about 200 manufacturers. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Forced to Return Home, Afghan Refugees Face Increased Hardship

Undocumented refugees returning to Afghanistan from Pakistan have no jobs, no support system, and no home return to, and international aid agencies say they and the government are overwhelmed and under-resourced. Ayesha Tanzeem has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Britain Makes Controversial Move to Crack Down on Extremism

Britain is moving to tighten controls on extremist rhetoric, even when it does not incite violence or hatred -- a move that some are concerned might unduly restrict basic freedoms. It is an issue many countries are grappling with as extremist groups gain power in the Middle East, fueled in part by donations and fighters from the West. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Al-Shabab Recruitment Drive Still on In Kenya

The al-Shabab militants that have long battled for control of Somalia also have recruited thousands of young people in Kenya, leaving many families disconsolate. Mohammed Yusuf recently visited the Kenyan town of Isiolo, and met with relatives of those recruited, as well as a many who have helped with the recruiting.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.

VOA Blogs