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Russia Launches Controversial Floating Nuclear Plant

Greenpeace activists in a boat display a banner reading "No to floating Chernobyl" in front of the floating nuclear power plant Academician Lomonosov in St. Petersburg last year.

A floating nuclear power built in Russia and widely criticized by environmentalists has embarked on its first sea voyage.

The floating plant, the Akademik Lomonosov, on April 28 was towed out of the St. Petersburg shipyard where it was constructed, according to Interfax.

It is to be pulled across the Baltic Sea and around the northern tip of Norway to Murmansk in northeast Russia, where the nuclear reactors are to be fueled, Russian nuclear officials told TASS.

If all goes according to plan, the Akademik Lomonosov is to be put into service in 2019 in the Arctic off the coast of Chukotka in the Far East, providing power for a port town and for oil rigs.

The project has been criticized as risky by environmentalists. Greenpeace has dubbed it a "floating Chernobyl."

Analysts say the project is part of Russia's greater aims to secure the rich deposits of oil and gas in the North Pole region.

Due to climate change, new shipping routes are opening up in Russia’s north. As a result, Moscow is strengthening its military position in the region.

Based on reporting by AP and dpa