On the beach

Alexander Rumyantsev, Russia’s Minister for Atomic Energy, has given approval for the construction of the world’s first floating nuclear power plant in the city of Severodvinsk. Russian nuclear giant Rosenergoatom is slated to build the Severodvinsk plant, as well as one other, at a cost of between $100-120 million.

But before you even think about going on vacation to the city to check it out, visit the Severodvinsk home page on the Internet.

First, it’s worth bearing in mind that the Russian office of visas and registrations says that foreigners cannot go to Severodvinsk at all, even though, some do. ‘You will be here for these reasons: a special friend, business, environmental worker, or spy,’ according to the Severodvinsk home page. Probably worth making sure you are one of those before you go, then.

As for food, Americans beware! Hamburgers and pizza are not widely available, but the Russian equivalent of bad food is, at least, cheap. You can expect to pay $3 for a meal of meat patty, potato chips (fries), bread, and a glass of cola – if you are prepared to wait 30 minutes for it. No different to the UK, then.

There are health issues to bear in mind too. Because the water is different shades of brown and yellow, you may wish to drink from bottles. Also, the web site warns you that ‘this is not a good city to be sick’. And the toilet paper is awfully rough. ‘Bring some soft toilet paper from home,’ is the advice to tourists.

Worse yet, the water in Severodvinsk is always cool or freezing. Due to economy or conservation, every week, only one-half of the city has hot water.

So maybe it’s worth waiting until this nuclear power plant gets running – at least if you want to keep warm or take a hot bath. But that’s not going to be for a while. Construction of the plant, which will co-generate heat and power in Severodvinsk, won’t be completed until 2008. And that won’t come a minute too soon for the inhabitants of this rather chilly place in Northwestern Russia.