Russia’s floating nuclear plant ready to deliver power

On August 23rd, a ceremony took place that saw the start of the towing of the Akademik Lomonosov floating nuclear power plant from Murmansk to its permanent port in the city of Pevek, Chukotka. There, it will become a fully-fledged energy producing facility.

The command to start towing the Akademik Lomonosov floating power unit from Murmansk was given by the Director General of Rosatom State Corporation, Alexey Likhachev.

The floating nuclear power plant, with the help of tugboats, will cover a distance of more than 4700 km before being moved off the coast in Pevek.

After connecting to power grids there, it will essentially be used as a nuclear power supply unit, supplying electricity to the city of Pevek and the Chukotka Autonomous Region, including replacing the capacity of the Bilibino Nuclear Power Plant, which will be finally stopped in early 2020.

The Akademik Lomonosov floating nuclear power plant is the lead project for a series of low-power mobile transportable power units. It is designed to operate as part of a floating nuclear power plant (FNPP) in the Far North and the Far East and is a new class of energy sources based on Russian nuclear shipbuilding technologies. The FNPP is designed with a large margin of safety to counter external threats. The station is equipped with two KLT-40S icebreaker-type reactors that are capable of generating up to 70 MW of electricity and 50 Gcal/h of thermal energy in the nominal operating mode, which is enough to ensure energy consumption in a city with a population of about 100 000 people.

The Akademik Lomonosov has a length of 144 metres and a width of 30 metres. It has a displacement of 21 500 tonnes and a crew of 69 people.

Reactors were designed by OKBM Afrikantov and assembled by Nizhniy Novgorod Research and Development Institute Atomenergoproekt. The reactor vessels were produced by Izhorskiye Zavody. The turbo generators were supplied by the Kaluga Turbine Plant.

Its planned service life is 40 years. The operating time of reactor installations between overloads of the core is three years. All nuclear fuel and radioactive material handling systems are located inside the FNPP. The core reloading and storage of spent fuel is carried out on board the FNPP.

It can carry sufficient enriched uranium to power the two reactors for 12 years, before having to be towed, with its spent fuel, back to Russia, where the radioactive waste will be processed. In addition, such power units can operate in island states, and a powerful desalination plant can be created on their bases.

The energy sphere can easily be changed by the two generations of the FNPPs. The first generation is a massive engineering feat, with the second one being even more impressive.

This technology that could potentially provide safe and clean energy to a large part of the planet, which could also be provided at a cheap price.

Naturally, it doesn’t come without its critics. Akademik Lomonosov has come under widespread criticism from environmental groups such as Greenpeace and the Bellona Foundation. Greenpeace criticized the project as one that may cause harm to a “fragile environment which is already under enormous pressure from climate change,” as well as calling it a “nuclear Titanic” and a “Chernobyl on Ice.”

In response, Rosatom affirmed that precautions have been taken to prevent a nuclear disaster and that the floating plant meets all the requirements of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Back in 2018, the New York Times wrote a report on the Akademik Lomonosov, citing Jacopo Buongiorno, a Professor of Nuclear Engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

“They are light-years ahead of us,” Buongiorno said.

The construction of the FNPP was carried out by order of Rosatom in accordance with the Federal Target Program, “Energy Efficient Economy” for 2002-2005 and for the long term until 2010. Initially, on May 19, 2006, the winner of the tender for the construction of the FNPP of project 20870 was declared JSC Production Association Northern Machine-Building Enterprise (NSR, Severodvinsk).