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).
On April 15th, 2007, the ceremony of laying the Akademik Lomonosov keel was held at the NSR, with a planned completion date of 2010.
However, then the management of the NSR stated the requirements for revising the contract terms and the cost of building the FNPP. As a result, in August 2008, Rosatom terminated the agreements with the NSR and transferred the construction of the FNPP to JSC Baltic Plant (then part of Pugachev’s United Industrial Corporation). In May 2009, the Akademik Lomonosov was reloaded at the Baltic Shipyard. At the same time, the contractual readiness of the FNPP was shifted towards the end of 2012, and its commissioning in 2013.
On June 30, 2010, the Akademik Lomonosov FNPP was launched in St. Petersburg at the Baltic Shipyard. However, only on September 27th and October 1st, 2013, steam generating units were loaded onto the FNPP. Under the terms of the new contract, the Baltic Shipyard pledged to hand over the FNPP, ready for towing to the place of operation, on September 9th, 2016.
On October 4th, 2016, the construction of the coastal infrastructure of the FNPP in Pevek (Chukotka Autonomous Region) began.
The towing of the completed Akademik Lomonosov FNPP from the Baltic Plant to Murmansk started on April 28th, 2018, and it arrived in Murmansk on May 19th and was moored at the site of the Atomflot FSUE (a subsidiary of Rosatom).
The loading of nuclear fuel into the first reactor (starboard) of the power unit was started there on July 25th, 2018, and into the second reactor (starboard) on September 28th. On November 2nd, 2018, the first PEB reactor was launched. The Akademik Lomonosov power station was officially cleared for operation on July 4th, 2019.
The State Atomic Energy Corporation, Rosatom is already working on the second generation of the FNPP – the Optimized Floating Power Unit (OFPU), which will be smaller and more powerful than its predecessor. It is supposed 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 FNPP will be produced. Currently, with the Akademik Lomonosov, Russia operates 11 nuclear power plants, with the Bilibino NPP planned to stop working in the early 2020s, the number would remain at 10, for a while.
The second generation is under development and in 2015 construction of a second vessel starting in 2019 was announced by Rosatom. In 2007, Rosatom signed an agreement with the Sakha Republic to build a floating plant for its northern parts, using smaller ABV reactors
Allegedly, Gazprom also plans to use 5 FNPPs for offshore oil and gas field development and for operations on the Kola and Yamal peninsulas. Other locations that these ships may be used at include Dudinka on the Taymyr Peninsula, Vilyuchinsk on the Kamchatka Peninsula.
According to Rosatom, 15 countries, including China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Algeria, Namibia, Cape Verde and Argentina, have shown interest in hiring such a device. It has been estimated that 75% of the world’s population live within 100 miles of a port city.
These are the locations which it would be useful – on 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 allow to create a comprehensive support infrastructure along the Northern Sea Route.
Such nuclear power plants will also allow solve energy issues in the areas where the construction of classic nuclear plants is not possible (for example, because of a seismic hazard) or is too costly and complicated. This would help to supply the port cities of Sevastopol, Novorossiysk or Vladivistok with additional electricity.
African states suffer from constant energy shortages. In addition, as mentioned above, the ship may be equipped with a desalination plant, so it could also provide massive amounts of clean, drinkable water for the local population.
One more likely location is the Arabian Peninsula, some parts of Saudi Arabia suffer from energy shortages. The same goes for Yemen. Such a ship may be used to provide al-Hudaydah, for example, with energy and clean water, and of course if the Saudi-led intervention continues there, its security needs to be ensured.
Floating nuclear power plants can be used at river routes, for example in Russia and throughout Asia. Some United States cities in remote areas such as Alaska may also benefit, since until the US makes some adequate icebreakers, they would still need to ask Russia for assistance in a crisis.
Environmentalists are concerned that the floating plant could fall victim to a disaster like a tsunami, resulting in a possible nuclear catastrophe.
“It’s riskier than running an ordinary nuclear-power station, and Russia has a checkered past when it comes to ordinary power stations,” Jan Haverkamp, a nuclear-energy expert at the environmental nonprofit, Greenpeace, told Business Insider.
Haverkamp published a blog post that referred to the floating plant as “Chernobyl on Ice.” Haverkamp said he borrowed the phrase from an article published in the Finnish newspaper, YLE because he thinks Russia may be ignoring safety concerns about the plant.
It is not quite certain that these concerns are justified. The world ocean is a gigantic water mass, obviously. Even if the entire ship is to sink, the environmental impact would be much less than a conventional NPP having a “Chernobyl-style” failure. Water is infamous for swallowing up radiation with little to no adverse side effects.
It appears that the critics are disregarding many of the obvious facts that show the FNPP is actually quite a lot safer than the conventional NPP. Despite this, there is the HBO Chernobyl propaganda series, that attempted to present the Russian nuclear energy industry as one that cuts corners just to save money, at the expense of safety.
The starting of the towing of the Akademik Lomonosov FNPP is an important signal, showing that soon the energy industry may be changed on a global scale, thus, it is likely that the Western establishment will use all means necessary, and especially MSM and other channels of propaganda to influence opinions against the technology.
The truth is that if Russia can produce these ships fast enough, provide safer and cleaner energy, as well as drinkable water, that means its position would grow strongly, and its main competitor in the US clearly doesn’t wish to see that.
MORE ON THE TOPIC:
- Russia Allows Operation Of World’s First Floating Nuclear Power Plant – Akademik Lomonosov Powership