Abandoned Russian Polar Nuclear Lighthouses

Russian Abandoned Nuclear Polar Lighthouse 1

Did you know that the USSR set up a chain of nuclear powered autonomous light houses? Did you know that they have since been looted? Including the reactors? If no then this is the posting devoted to those:

Russian Abandoned Nuclear Polar Lighthouse 2

Russian Northern coast is a vast territory lays for a few thousand of miles and all this coastline is inside the Polar Circle. Long polar winters mean no daylight at all, just one day changes another without any sign of the Sun rising above the horizon. There is only polar night for 100 day a year.

Russian Abandoned Nuclear Polar Lighthouse 3

But across this Northern coast there was always a short way for the cargo boats to travel from Eastern part of Russia to the Western. Now this trip can be made fairly easy with the appearance of all the satellite navigation equipment like GPS and others, but during the Soviet Era they had none of this.

Russian Abandoned Nuclear Polar Lighthouse 4

So, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union decided to build a chain of lighthouses to guide ships finding their way in the dark polar night across uninhabited shores of the Soviet Russian Empire. So it has been done and a series of such lighthouses has been erected. They had to be fully autonomous, because they were situated hundreds and hundreds miles aways from any populated areas. After reviewing different ideas on how to make them work for a years without service and any external power supply, Soviet engineers decided to implement atomic energy to power up those structures. So, special lightweight small atomic reactors were produced in limited series to be delivered to the Polar Circle lands and to be installed on the lighthouses. Those small reactors could work in the independent mode for years and didn’t require any human interference, so it was very handy in the situation like this. It was a kind of robot-lighthouse which counted itself the time of the year and the length of the daylight, turned on its lights when it was needed and sent radio signals to near by ships to warn them on their journey. It all looks like ran out the sci-fi book pages, but so they were.

Russian Abandoned Nuclear Polar Lighthouse 5

Then, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the unattended automatic lighthouses did it job for some time, but after some time they collapsed too. Mostly as a result of the hunt for the metals like copper and other stuff which were performed by the looters. They didn’t care or maybe even didn’t know the meaning of the “Radioactive Danger” sign and ignored them, breaking in and destroying the equipment. It sounds creepy but they broke into the reactors too causing all the structures to become radioactively polluted.

Russian Abandoned Nuclear Polar Lighthouse 6


Those photos are from the trip to the one of such structures, the most close to the populated areas of the Russian far east. Now, there are signs “RADIOACTIVITY” written with big white letters on the approaching paths to the structure but they don’t stop the abandoned exotics lovers.


Russian Abandoned Nuclear Polar Lighthouse 7


Russian Abandoned Nuclear Polar Lighthouse 8


Russian Abandoned Nuclear Polar Lighthouse 9


Russian Abandoned Nuclear Polar Lighthouse 10


Russian Abandoned Nuclear Polar Lighthouse 11


Russian Abandoned Nuclear Polar Lighthouse 12


Russian Abandoned Nuclear Polar Lighthouse 13


Russian Abandoned Nuclear Polar Lighthouse 14


Russian Abandoned Nuclear Polar Lighthouse 15


Russian Abandoned Nuclear Polar Lighthouse 16


Russian Abandoned Nuclear Polar Lighthouse 17


Russian Abandoned Nuclear Polar Lighthouse 18


Russian Abandoned Nuclear Polar Lighthouse 19


Russian Abandoned Nuclear Polar Lighthouse 20


Russian Abandoned Nuclear Polar Lighthouse 21


photos by kamatoz

178 thoughts on “Abandoned Russian Polar Nuclear Lighthouses”

      • OMG Russians are so poor they can’t even maintain thier own coastline and lighthouses. Its such a pity. Is that why there has been a recent surge in ship wreck, sunken submarine in russian waters? 🙁

        • Yes, that is EXACTLY why the submarines sunk, because the lighthouses were out of order. Lighthouses are crucial for submarine navigation.

          • Agreed. People spend more time making pithy comments than thinking.

            For all the haters who replied to MI, I don’t remember when submarines were prevented from using terrestrial navigation aids (visual and radio per the article). Thousands of miles of rugged coastland, polar night 1/3 of the year, no guarantee of a cloudless sky… Nope. I see no reason to pop the periscope or surface for any reason. I guess all their skippers were Sean Connery or Captain Nemo (pick the pithy comment that best suits your generation).

        • “But across this Northern coast there was always a short way for the cargo boats to travel from Eastern part of Russia to the Western. Now this trip can be made fairly easy with the appearance of all the satellite navigation equipment like GPS and others, but during the Soviet Era they had none of this…”
          It became simple not sense it to use.
          Whence such stereotypes about Russia? Listen less that speak to you and think the head more))
          English language I know badly – transfer in promt…

        • Check out Tillamook Rock Light off the coast of Oregon, USA. Abandoned, decaying. It has nothing to do with how ‘poor’ a country is. It’s always a cost/benefit question.

    • well they were fully-automatic, which doesn’t make ’em maintenance-free. And the maintenance people aren’t robots – they need to go pee and poo, ‘specially when maintenance might stretch for a week or two…

    • Daily logs and toilets are expected. The lighthouses themselves were probably erected prior to the Soviet’s completion of design for self sufficiency. There would have been lighthouse keepers until the work was completed. Logs would be unnecessary after that point but until that point it’s understandable.

      Side Note: Even if everything had been designed and assembled and set to use without the need for people there would still have been someone needed to oversee it initially to make sure that it was working properly. That person may have only been there for a week but he would have needed to use the bathroom in that time frame 🙂

    • it is the MYS Aniva lighthouse. it was originally manned, but the soviets replaced it with an RTG reactor so that it became automatic. it was abandoned not only radioactive but has a giant pool of mercury lubricant.

  1. I can’t remember where I first read this, but my understanding is that the lighthouses were powered by big RTGs, not by mini-reactors. Makes sense to me since as long as you have enough Sr-90 or some other suitable isotope, it’s much easier and safer to make a simple RTG than to design an entire reactor. Plus I can’t imagine a fully automatic reactor

      • They did build automated nuclear reactors, as we know in Canada because one of them, Cosmos 954, deorbited and strewed itself over granite terrain. Searching for it with radiation detectors was said to be like looking for a red nose in a sunset.

        I think the lighthouse RTGs were powered by 90-Sr, not 238-Pu, because some of the wreckers got toasted, which plutonium can’t really do. Also 90-Sr is a lot easier to get.

        Either way, it’s like a reactor that is always at 100 percent, even after you cut it open and spread it around. An actual fission reactor is much less dangerous.

  2. “Радиация”? I hope the photographer brought a Geiger counter with them. One wouldn’t want to die of radiation poisoning.

  3. clean up the mess and radiation, it would make for an awesome hideout for a james bond villain..especially the first photo looks like a rocket would be launched from the light house

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  6. Second anon’s comment. I presume a fully-contained nuclear reactor would be much too expensive for this purpose. It’s much more likely they used large RTGs ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radioisotope_thermoelectric_generator ). These are the same type of power sources that power space probes such as the Voyagers. They can last for many decades. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voyager_program#Power )

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  13. You guys are right about RTG -> http://www.bellona.no/bellona.org/english_import_area/international/russia/nuke-weapons/nonproliferation/28067

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  16. This too: http://www.bellona.no/bellona.org/english_import_area/international/russia/navy/northern_fleet/incidents/37598

    Somehow u russkies want to downplay your “incidents”! 😀

  17. “why there is a toilet, and daily log at the pictures?”

    I suspect a maintenance crew is supposed to visit periodically.

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  20. I was thinking the same thing. Only problem is, I suspect it’s a lot easier find a buyer for copper than lighthouse lenses.

    I’m not sure if I hope the looters die of leukemia or not.

  21. It would be very interesting if this website could post a bit more detail on these facilities, such as how long did they function before they were vandalized.

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  29. Really really interesting to see the former soviet flag of Estonia on the pictures. The one with blue waves on the red background. Greetings from Estonia!

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  36. Nuclear-class light houses. I want one.
    Besides, radioactivity never harmed anybody.
    At least that is what my Dear Leader says to me over the cities civil defense public announcement system.

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  44. Some Guy did want to know where this lighthouse is located –
    this lighthouse is the more or lesser famous Aniva Lighthouse

    Here it is located:


    and here is a little bit background story:



    have a nice day folks

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  57. I am going to start a monthly calender with “best of” Abondoned Russian Polar Nuclear Lighthouses.
    Enjoy your favorite Nuclear Lighthouse by the month! $19.95 (??Roubles).

  58. What is more detrimental to a persons health – Nuclear Lighthouses or the “Quality Russian Dating Service” (advertised with this article)?

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  60. Can you imagine SMALL nuclear reactor for each lighthouse? how much was all this at soviets time?? There is a company just started to promote silimar reactors for sale and they are few tens of millins of $$$.

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  68. Hey, don’t be a douche, Wilson. Paul wasn’t saying anything about making a fission bomb. He said weapon (well “wepon” actually). To my knowledge, the strontium used for RITEGs could never be enriched to produce a fissile material, because Sr-90 doesn’t have the nuclear properties to be fissile. However, I believe he was referring to a dirty bomb. That is, he is worried somebody will take a few pounds of the radioisotope and disperse it via conventional explosive for nefarious purposes.

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  74. I have visited one of these sites in Archangelsk region. The site was much more desroyed and looted compared with this one. As in this case radioisotope thermoelectric generators (most dangerous agregates) 🙂 were dismandled.
    There were build around 1000 such lighthouses in Soviet Union. Many on them have been dismantled. It is also interesting that some of litghhouses can not be located, because of the dismanagement.

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  106. I like your post and i want to tell you that i really don’t knew about something like “Nuclear Light House” that is situated in Russia. I am impressed with the Russian nuclear technology that they have very small nuclear reactor that can be place in remote areas where no human can work as these reactors(power plants) work remotely. Thanks for the interesting and informative post…

  107. “Can you without any hesitation believe anything that came out of the Soviet Union as anything but propaganda?”
    in the same way as well as in america – all it only propagation adjusting friend against the friend the people. the purpose – control over the population, over their mood. and we with ease give in to it… It is sad and is silly

  108. I hope that they cleaned up any radio active material that was left behind. In a way it is a shame that lighthouses of become an obsolete structure.

  109. Were these real nuclear reactors or radioisotope generators? There’s a big difference, as RTGs are much simpler, require less supervision and can easily be designed to be safe even if everything around the cask breaks down. Would love to have more information…

  110. The old lighthouse tradition required an operator. This operator would have the additional duty of not only receiving distress reports, but also reporting on ships, especially ships in distress. In the old old days the operators would go out and try to rescue sailors in distress if he/she could. Lighthouse operator was a boring job, kinda like a forest ranger in a tower whose job was to spot forest fires. It was a necessary job. Making the houses nuclear was a really good idea as no firewood would ever have to be chopped, another duty of the lighthouse operator. Of course if he/she was out chopping firewood, he would not be on watch, his/her primary duty. I like the nuclear idea…cheap compact energy that lasts forever and is abundant…just needs an operator. If you are gonna spend a million roubles of your taxpayers…the people’s money, ya better have a peoples civil employee looking after it.

  111. I am interested in a position as lighthouse keeper, restorer, and historical aid, for the country and/or state if not owned privatly. I have been to Russia and am familiar with her beauty but the coast and lighthouses are my long time love to put my effort toward. If anyone knows a willing lighthouse with my name on it so-to-speak, send me an e-mail and instructions to watchtheskyatnight@gmail.com dosvyadonya!
    Christine Williams – Oregon/USA -Geography Major

  112. According to Barents Observer Russia is cleaning up all the nuclear powered light houses and refitting them with wind turbines and solar panels http://barentsobserver.com/en/arctic/2013/04/no-nuclear-lighthouses-arctic-2015-12-04

  113. Favorite all images and little statues of these light houses, it has a lonely but, strong look against the elements saving the ships and it’s occupants


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