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Floating nuclear power promises to provide a steady source of energy for hard-to-reach locations. However, the dangers inherent in nuclear power make some question whether it’s safe enough for areas where help is hard to find. Is floating nuclear power really a good idea? GlobalData’s power technology writer Yoana Cholteeva looks at the issues.
Cholteeva says: “Russian nuclear company Rosatom announced the arrival of the world’s first floating nuclear power plant, Akademik Lomonosov, in September 2019 when the technology was transported to the port of its permanent location in Russia’s Far East. The 144m-long and 30m-wide vessel is now docked at the port in Pevek, off the coast of Chukotka, where it will stay before its commissioning later this year.
“Akademik Lomonosov will use small modular reactor technology and is equipped with two KLT-40C reactor systems with 35MW capacity each. It has been designed to access hard-to-reach areas where it can operate for three to five years without the need for refuelling. It also has an overall life cycle of 40 years, which may be extended to 50 years.
“The power plant serves as a pilot project for a future fleet of floating nuclear power plants and onshore installations based on small modular reactors made in Russia. While this isn’t the first nuclear powered vessel, nuclear powered submarines and other vessels powered by nuclear power (in some cases with a higher capacity than 35MW) have been around since the 1950’s, it is the first facility specifically designed to power an electric grid.
“According to Rosatom, one of the main advantages of the construction is economic as, after being docked, the 21,000-tonne barge will replace an ageing land-based nuclear plant to supply 50,000 people in the area with electricity. The Lomonosov consists of an energy unit equipped with the latest nuclear safety technology and uses the same construction technology as nuclear icebreakers and marine vessels, making it suitable for use in the harsh conditions.
“Despite the positive effects highlighted by the Russian Government and Rosatom, nuclear experts have highlighted crucial negatives that cast doubt on the floating nuclear utopia.
“Although this nuclear reactor might seem more environmentally friendly than fossil fuels, the Akademik Lomonosov plan includes the reactor staying at sea for 12 years.”
Jan Haverkamp, GP Netherlands senior expert nuclear energy and energy policy warns: “This means fuel has to be changed about four times, in this time the used fuel which is highly, highly toxic will remain onboard before being shipped off and replaced with fresh fuel.”
GlobalData’s Power Technology
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