Russia’s ‘nuclear Titanic’ ready to produce power

Russia’s ‘nuclear Titanic’ ready to produce power

The world’s first floating nuclear power station, known as a “floating Chernobyl” or “nuclear Titanic” by its opponents, is ready to begin supplying electricity, according to Russia. 

The Akademik Lomonosov is due to power Pevek (pictured) on the Arctic Ocean on Russia’s northeast coast but it could be towed wherever there is a need for electricity.

The 144-metre long and 30-metre wide vessel is the work of Rosatom, which has the world’s second-largest uranium reserves, more than a third of the global enrichment market and is the planet’s biggest builder of the latest generation nuclear power plants. 

Russia’s nuclear agency, Rosatom, has reported the successful testing on the Akademik Lomonosov’s twin KLT-40 reactors. 

Andrei Petrov, an energy chief at Rosatom, said the successful tests meant an operating licence would be issued for the Akademik Lomonosov in July. 

He said the vessel was ready to be linked to the Pevek grid and begin heating the city by the end of the year. 

Ominously for environmental campaigners, Rosatom has a US$133 billion, 10-year export order book with the floating plants seen as far cheaper and quicker to manufacture than a land-based nuclear power station. 

In a risk to global security, China is reportedly constructing a similar floating power plant. It plans a fleet of nuclear stations in the contested South China Sea where Beijing is expanding its military presence on artificially extended islands. The territory is internationally recognised as belonging to Vietnam and the Philippines and also partially claimed by Brunei, Taiwan, Indonesia and Malaysia. 

Chinese state broadcaster CCTV hinted at the possibilities for the devices when it reported in March that they “can dynamically adjust mooring position according to needs, for remote areas, important islands and offshore oil and gas exploration platforms [to] provide clean electricity, heat and freshwater”.

The Kremlin-controlled Tass said the ship’s two 70-megawatt reactors could power a city of 200,000.

In 2018, Greenpeace said “nuclear reactors bobbing around the Arctic Ocean will pose a shockingly obvious threat to a fragile environment which is already under enormous pressure from climate change”.

No spent nuclear fuel or radioactive waste would be left behind as it would be taken to the special storage sites, Rosatom said. 

The lifecycle of the floating power station is estimated 40 years with the possibility of being extended to around 50 years. 

Similar nuclear reactors have been used to fuel warships since the mid-20th century, notably on US aircraft carriers and several nations’ submarines.

 

 

Less than picturesque Pevek. Picture credit: Wikimedia 

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