Floating Nuclear Power Plants Are Ready To Shape Global Energy Market

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On September 14, the Akademik Lomonosov floating nuclear power plant reached the port city of Pevek in Russia’s Chukotka after covering a distance of more than 4,700km from Murmansk. After connecting to power grids there, it will become a fully-fledged energy producing facility, supplying electricity to the city of Pevek and the Chukotka Autonomous Region. This will include replacing the capacity of the Bilibino Nuclear Power Plant, which will be finally stopped in early 2020.

The Akademik Lomonosov is the lead project for a series of low-power mobile transportable power units. Floating nuclear power plants (FNPPs) in the Far North and the Far East are a new class of energy sources based on Russian nuclear shipbuilding technologies. The station is equipped with two KLT-40S icebreaker-type reactors which are capable of generating up to 70 MW of electricity and 50 Gcal/h of thermal energy in the nominal operating mode. This is enough to ensure that energy consumption demands are satisfied for a city with a population of about 100 000 people.

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

The FNPP’s planned service life is 40 years. The operating time of reactor installations between reloading 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.

The FNPP can carry sufficient enriched uranium to power the two reactors for 12 years. Then, it, with its spent fuel, should be towed back to Russia, where the radioactive waste will be processed. In addition, such power units allow creating powerful desalination plants on their bases.

Initially, the Akademik Lomonosov project cost was expected to be $140 million. However, during construction, the cost increased to about $574 million. This includes $107 million for coastal infrastructure.

The State Atomic Energy Corporation, Rosatom is already working on the second generation FNPP called the Optimized Floating Power Unit. It will be smaller and more powerful than its predecessor. The Optimized Floating Power Unit is to be equipped with two RITM-200M reactors with a total capacity of 100 MW. There is no disclosed plan of how many of these power plants will be produced. Currently, Russia operates 11 nuclear power plants, including the Akademik Lomonosov.

Russia’s Energy giant, Gazprom, reportedly has plans to use at least 5 FNPPs for oil and gas field development as well as for support of infrastructure for transportation operations. Possible locations where they could be used include the Shtokman natural gas field in the Barents Sea, and in the developing oil and gas fields on the Yamal Peninsula.

FNPPs would be useful along the Northern Sea Route, in and around the Arctic. The floating nuclear power plants will solve the issue of the energy supply in the region and will make possible the creation of a comprehensive support infrastructure there. According to Rosatom, 15 countries, including China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Algeria, Namibia, Cape Verde and Argentina, have already shown interest in hiring floating nuclear power plants.

Floating nuclear power plants will solve energy issues in areas where construction of classic nuclear plants is not possible (for example, because of a seismic hazard) or is too costly and complicated. In Russia, this could help to provide additional electricity to port cities such as Sevastopol, Novorossiysk or Vladivistok.

African states, many of which suffer from constant energy shortages, also could solve their issues with help from FNPPs. In addition, the deployed FNPPs would make feasible the the creation of desalination plants providing massive amounts of clean, drinkable water for the local population. Therefore, another key humanitarian issue in Africa will be resolved.

One more likely location is the Arabian Peninsula. For example, an FNPP could be employed to deal with the humanitarian crisis in Yemen after the end of the Saudi-led invasion. Such a ship deployed near al-Hudaydah could provide western Yemen with energy and clean water.

Furthermore, floating nuclear power plants can be used on river routes, for example in Russia and throughout Asia. Some United States cities in remote areas such as Alaska might also benefit, since, until the US makes some adequate icebreakers, they would still need to ask Russia for assistance in case of crises.

The launch of the first ever floating nuclear power plant has become an important engineering breakthrough that will impact notably the energy sphere on a global scale. This technology, which could potentially provide safe and clean energy to a large part of the planet, could also be provided at an attractive price.

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