Life in a Nuclear City

A photo of Leningrad Nuclear Power Plant in Sosnovy Bor

Sosnovy Bor derives its name from the pine forest around it. The youngest city in the Leningrad region and located about 80 km from the city of St Petersburg, Sosnovy Bor is a Nuclear City as it is home to Leningrad Nuclear Power Plant. The Nuclear Power Plant is located on the shore of the Gulf of Finland and has 4 units of RBMK-1000 type (Uranium-graphite channel-type high power reactors) and one unit of VVER-1200 (water-cooled, water-moderated reactors of Generation-III).

As you leave behind the hustle and flamboyancy of St Petersburg, and cross through the pine forest to reach Sosnovy Bor, the city strikes you with normalcy. It is like any other city in the world only with better city planning, tall buildings and cleaner air. The city is modern in every aspect and houses over 67,000 people. “The City and the Nuclear Power Plant has co-existed for 45 years. It already has 14 kindergartens and nine schools. There is also one of its kind nuclear research centre of the country and a Polytechnic College,” Head of Administration Sosnovy Bor Urban District Mikhail Voronkov told Nuclear Asia while talking about the infrastructure in the city.

The AP Aleksandrov Research Institute of Technology is only of its kind in Russia and conducts comprehensive tests on the naval nuclear power units and bring the prototypes to the required level of reliability and security.

The denizens of the city enjoy a higher standard of living as their salaries are higher than St Petersburg, Russia’s port city and cultural capital. Practically all citizens are employed either in the Nuclear Power Plant or the nuclear research centre. The workforce is highly skilled. “We have salaries higher than St. Petersburg. Sosnovy Bor is attractive for youngsters to study and work. Competition to get in our universities is high and afterwards they get jobs in the nuclear power plant,” Voronkov added.

The Leningrad Nuclear Power Plant has generated 1 trillion KW hours of power by January 2018 since the time it started operation in December 1973. Its first VVER-1200 unit started operation in October 2018 and a second unit is under construction. Unit 3 and 4 are also proposed to be constructed to replace the RBMK reactors. So far the first VVER-1200 unit has generated 1 billion KWh of power. Rosatom is supplying the VVER-1000 reactors for Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant in India. Apart from this, Russia has also inked contract with India to supply six more units of VVER-1200 reactors.

Talking about the Nuclear Power Plant being the source of employment, Technical Director Leningrad Power Plant Alexander Belyaer told Nuclear Asia: “The number of people employed in 5 Nuclear Power Units are 5,900. Additional 2000 people are in support jobs. Also, Unit 5 is under construction and hence 4,000 workers are also here.”

Voronkov also spoke about the economic contribution of the Leningrad Nuclear Power Plant that supplies more than 50 per cent of the total power consumed in the Leningrad Region and St. Petersburg. Along with the power for the region, the reactors provide a broad spectrum of radiochemical isotopes for medical and industrial use, like molybdenum-99 and Iodine-125. It also helps in commercial production of Cobalt-60, which is extensively employed as a radiation source to stop the development of cancer.

The Nuclear Power Plant also supplies medical gas and liquid oxygen to health facilities of Sosnovy Bor and St. Petersburg. It also provides liquid nitrogen, industrial gas and liquid oxygen to local industries.

“Besides all of this the workers of the Nuclear Power Plant pay taxes. The annual city budget is 2.4 billion Rubbles. Half of this income is generated through taxes. There are two smart cities in the country and Sosnovy Bor is one of them. It has deployed all the smart management system in utilities, security and transport sectors,” Voronkov added. To drive home the point of the acceptability of the nuclear power plant by the residents of the city, Voronkov said: “There are so many fishermen in the vicinity of the nuclear power plant and people also bathe here (in the Baltic Sea) in summers. People come for vacation here.”

The acceptance for nuclear energy in Sosnovy Bor lies on the foundation of transparency and familiarity with the technology. “To increase acceptance we start at the kindergarten itself and continue through school to university. We take excursions to Nuclear Power Plant. The contact programme is continued with pensioners and through bloggers as well,” Aleksandra Tkacheva, the environmental expert of the city said.