• Mon. Jan 18th, 2021



Damaged Nuclear Freighter Off The Galician Coast


Dec 30, 2020

A 260-meter-long, 32-year-old freighter has kept the Spanish maritime authorities in suspense for a week.

The bumpy trajectory of the container ship and icebreaker Sevmorput has triggered the monitoring system of the General Directorate of the Merchant Marine of Spain due to the mechanical problems that this nuclear-powered ship has been dragging for two months, the only one of its kind that it is still operational.

The SevmorputHe has a serious failure in the helix propeller, which has forced him to suspend his planned trip to Antarctica and try to return to Saint Petersburg. The freighter is now limping — at half its normal speed — across the Atlantic.

In the early hours of this Tuesday it was located off the Galician coast, about 50 miles from land – 92.6 kilometers. And on Tuesday morning, after passing Fisterra, he took the route towards the English Channel.

“Until now, the national environmental radiological surveillance systems have not detected any anomalous measurement value,” explains Marina Mercante. “The ship is navigable. The ship’s nuclear energy unit works in normal mode, ”a spokeswoman for Rosatom , Russia’s nuclear energy regulatory body , assures EL PAÍS by email .

For its part, the Nuclear Safety Council (CSN) last week raised a query with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) about the ship. CSN sources explain that no incident related to the nuclear reactor that powers the Sevmorput has been reported .

“The Maritime Rescue means in Galicia will be ready to deal with any type of incident that may occur while the ship is in Spanish territorial waters,” says Merchant Marine. In fact, Salvamento Marítimo has already had to act.

Last week, when the ship was in the waters of the Canary Islands, a helicopter from this service under the Ministry of Public Works had to evacuate the captain of the cargo ship to the Doctor Negrín Hospital in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria on suspicion that he might suffer from meningitis .

Finally, at the end of last week, the ship continued the route to Saint Petersburg that has now taken it to the Galician coast.

“This floating nuclear scrap, which is propelled through a nuclear reactor carried on board, with 150 kilos of enriched uranium fuel, reminds us once again of the high risk of nuclear energy,” Juan López de Uralde lamented this Monday. , deputy of Podemos.

The parliamentarian thus joined the criticisms launched also from the Galician BNG, which has asked that the ship not cross the waters of that community.

The problems of this freighter began on October 16, when the Russian ship reported “damage to a propeller blade off the coast of Luanda, the capital of Angola, according to the Merchant Marine. Specifically, Rosatom points out, the failure occurred in “the helix propeller unit”, from which one of the four blades fell off.

The Russian nuclear supervisor explains that a group of divers traveled to the ship to try to solve the problem. And finally the technicians chose to cut another of the blades to “eliminate the imbalance” that made the freighter sail in a zigzag.

The operations were carried out off the Angolan coast and Rosatom maintains that it took “three weeks to repair the equipment due to unfavorable weather conditions.” Finally, “on December 2,

The old Soviet freighter travels with about a hundred passengers, between the crew and the technical team that was heading to Antarctica. The ship was transporting material to carry out works at the Vostok base, Russia’s research station in Antarctica.

The passage of this damaged nuclear ship has not only alerted activists and some parties in Spain. In France, the environmental NGO Robin des Bois has warned of the difficult journey that the damaged nuclear freighter now has to face, which will have to overcome the Bay of Biscay, the Strait of Calais, the North Sea …

The ship will have to pass through the waters of 14 European countries. And this French NGO has contacted the European Commission, which has responded that it is “closely monitoring” the situation of the nuclear freighter. Robin des Bois has called for a towing operation to be organized to prevent any accidents.

The forecast is that the Sevmorput will reach its port of destination before the end of the year; just in time to celebrate 32 years since it began operating: its first mission started on December 31, 1988.

This is the last of Russia’s nuclear-powered freighters still operating. And it seemed destined for scrapping, but at the beginning of this decade it was decided that its life would be extended further and, after several works, it returned to sailing in 2016.

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