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Estonian scientists propose underwater nuclear reactor project

TALLINN, June 20 (RIA Novosti) - The Estonian Maritime Academy has developed a project to construct an underwater nuclear reactor off the Baltic Sea coast, a local newspaper said Wednesday.

The project, submitted to the Estonian Eesti Energia company, proposes the construction of a 1,000-MWt nuclear power plant on a granite shelf of the Muuga Bay.

"The construction of a nuclear reactor on the seabed is completely safe and local authorities would not object to this project," the Estonian newspaper Arileht quoted the head of the academy, Juri Kann, as saying.

Industry experts in Estonia believe that the construction of a nuclear reactor in the country is a viable proposition because the whole Baltic region may face an energy deficit in the next decade.

However, an underwater NPP project would be more costly than a similar land-based project, they said. Local environmentalists have also expressed doubts about the ecological safety of such a giant undertaking on the sea shelf.

The Baltic states are looking to diversify their energy sources to reduce their dependence from the Russian oil and gas supplies.

The electricity companies of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania have joined in a project to build a new nuclear facility with the capacity of 3,200 Megawatts in Lithuania to replace the ageing Ignalina plant, which uses reactors similar to the one that exploded at Chernobyl in 1986.

The new NPP is expected to come onstream by 2015, while Lithuania pledged to shut down the Ignalina facility by 2009.

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