updated 4/15/2007 4:58:48 PM ET 2007-04-15T20:58:48

Russia began construction of its first floating nuclear power plant Sunday, and plans to build at least six more despite long-standing environmental concerns that they are vulnerable to accidents at sea, Russian news agencies reported.

Russia justifies the program as a way of bringing power to some of the country’s most remote areas, also saying some of the plants could be sold to other nations.

The head of Russia’s atomic energy agency, Sergei Kiriyenko, said the plants will be safe.

“This plant is much safer than atomic energy stations on the ground,” the RIA-Novosti news agency quoted him as saying at a formal ceremony at the Sevmash fabricating plant in Severodvinsk on the White Sea coast.

He cited the 2000 sinking of the nuclear submarine Kursk as evidence of the reliability of the plants, which will use reactors similar to those on the submarine.

“After the boat was raised, specialists proved that the reactor could be put into service that very moment,” he said, according to RIA-Novosti.

The atomic energy agency and Sevmash on Sunday signed a document on their intent to build six more floating power plants, the ITAR-Tass news agency said.

It cited the atomic energy agency as saying that talks were under way on selling the plants to unspecified Asian and African countries as well as to Russian regions.

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