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Russian Nuclear Powered Lighthouses

James Kellerman

How can I never have heard that Russia built nuclear powered lighthouses. I nearly have a degree in nuclear stuff, if someone had told me that you could build nuclear powered lighthouses my life might have been very different. The Russians had a need for lighthouses along its remote massive Northern shore and with no people or infrastructure for hundreds of miles opted for nuclear power. Fortunately they used the relatively safe Radioisotope thermoelectric generator rather than a nuclear reactor. This is the same kind of nuclear battery that is used aboard spacecraft like Cassini.

From wikipedia

In addition to spacecraft, the Soviet Union constructed many unmanned lighthouses and navigation beacons powered by RTGs[1]. Powered by 90Sr, they are very reliable and provide a steady source of power. However, critics argue that they could cause environmental and security problems, as leakage or theft of the radioactive material could pass unnoticed for years (or possibly forever: some of these lighthouses cannot be found because of poor record keeping). There has been even an instance where the radioactive compartments were opened by a thief; it was inferred that the resulting radiation poisoning was fatal[2]. There was also the case of two woodcutters in Siberia who came across one of these units and slept close to it as a heat source during a cold night. They both died a few days afterwards from the irradiation.

More great pictures here at