The lake that never freezes

About 200 kilometres (120 mi) north west of Moscow, in Tver Oblast you can find lake Udomlya (named like the nearby town), a lake that never completely freezes, not even when the temperature drops to -30 or below. The reason is simple, but interesting. On the shores of Lake Udomlya sits the Kalinin Nuclear Power Station, which uses the lake waters to cool down its four nuclear reactors. The water exiting the plant is not radioactive (don’t worry!) but definitely hot enough to prevent large parts of the lake from freezing.

A couple of (I hope) interesting notes:

  1. The power station takes his name from the Bolshevik revolutionary and a Soviet functionary Mikhail Ivanovich Kalinin, who had been born nearby. During Soviet times the nearby city of Tver changed its name to Kalinin (from November 20, 1931 to July 17, 1990).
  2. Kalinin Nuclear Power Station began operations in 1985 at the height of the cold war. During Soviet times, therefore, Udomlya, the closest town to the plant, was one of the Soviet Union closed cities. If you reach Udomlya by car (you can also get there by train from Saint Petersburg) you can still see where the road blocks and check-points were, with huge small military barracks and huge concrete blocks able to stop any speeding vehicle and withstand the blast of an explosion. Now you can pass without stopping, just make sure you slow down in winter, to zig-zag from one lane to the other to avoid the huge concrete blocks that are still in place.

As a “westerner” to me it still feels kind of special to be able to freely visit places that once were absolutely off-limits to any foreigners and even to most Soviet citizens. If you’d like to discover such places and need a guide for your Russian trip, do get in touch and we will definitely make it happen!


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