Female employees from Russia's nuclear energy industry are competing for the Miss Atom 2009 title this month. The event's sponsors hope the beauty pageant will help dispel the industry's negative image.
Imagine, if you will, a bikini clad beauty queen strutting out of lake, with giant cooling towers belonging to a nuclear power facility dominating the background. Odd perhaps? Not, apparently, in Russia. There, women working in the country's nuclear industry compete for the annual title of Miss Atom.
The beauty pageant, now in its sixth year, is generously financed and well established. There are no anti-nuclear protestors who show up to sling rotten tomatoes at the contestants. Instead, it seems that this bold strategy of fusing atomic energy and Russian bombshells is just another part of life -- or at least a marvelous ploy.
"We want to show the general public that the nuclear industry is an industry like any other," Ilya Platonov, who heads up Nuclear.Ru which runs the event, told ABC News. "Ordinary people work in it, including young, attractive women."
Platonov also admits that the pageant is also an image campaign aimed at dispelling the image of a dangerous and threatening nuclear power industry.
The range of contestants for "Miss Atom 2009" is vast. Many look quite ordinary, lacking the perfect features often associated with beauty contests. Several, though, are astonishingly beautiful. In profile photos, some sling themselves across cars and desks or strike sexy poses in front of machines and oceanscape backgrounds while others wear silly hats or simply sit at office desks.
In personal statements, the ladies divulge passions for activities such as dancing, growing cactuses, travel, and sports. Some, like Julia Leonova of Siberia, add a bit more flare: "I can be a tiger, who spreads fear with a flash of my teeth, or an eagle who flies free through the sky…I can play a hundred different roles -- but choose only those I like," she writes.
Svetlana, an engineering student who goes to modeling school and won last year's "Miss Elegance" title, seems to embody winning characteristics: Her interests included fitness, hairdos and world peace. "I wish the world wasn't full of so many negative things, but rather with peace, friends and love," she writes.
In this competition, a good dose of patriotic love for the Fatherland never hurts either. One contestant sent in a photo of herself enthusiastically waving a Russian flag. Another contestant, 25-year-old Kristina Pogosjan, stated, "I don't need to go to modeling school. After all, I work for 'Atomtrudresurcy.'"
Pageant sponsors include the Atomenergoprom corporation, which was founded two years ago and has close ties with Rosatom, an agency that controls both the civilian and military branches of the industry -- and thus practically all Russia's nuclear material.
Rosatom recently announced plans to build 40 new nuclear reactors at a cost of $60 billion. With these plans, Russia will raise the share of atomic energy in its mix from 17 percent to 25 percent. The country already has 31 active reactors.
The future of atomic energy in Russia seems secure. Now the industry's ladies are seeing to its image.
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