Minatom's museum piece

3 June 2002

On 29 April, Minatom closed the reactor at Obninsk. The 5MWe AM-1 was the world's first reactor that was used to produce electricity and is to be turned into a museum.

The reactor was built in 1954. When it went on line, it helped Soviet scientists research the possibility of propelling submarines with nuclear power, as well as providing material for military use and electricity for civil consumption. It was also used to produce radioisotopes for medical use.

Recently, isotope production has barely met 10% of the running costs. Repair and reconstruction would have been prohibitive. Defuelling the reactor and disposing of the spent fuel on site will cost R60 million (approximately $2 million) over the next three years.

Minatom's deputy minister for information policy, Nikolai Shingaryov, said: "The plant was closed down for purely economic reasons. It could have continued to work, but it had not been profitable for a long time and was working off government subsidies." Minatom spokesman Yury Bespalko added that the reactor no longer served any scientific or technological purpose.

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