Russia Launches First Floating Nuclear Plant

Russia Launches First Floating Nuclear PlantRussia Launches First Floating Nuclear Plant

To meet its growing electricity needs while developing oil resources in remote Arctic regions, Russia has built a floating nuclear power station, a project that detractors deride as “Chernobyl on ice”.

Built in Saint Petersburg, Akademik Lomonosov is currently moored in Murmansk where it is being loaded with nuclear fuel before heading to eastern Siberia, the South China Morning Post reported.

On Saturday, the head of state nuclear power firm Rosatom unveiled the brown-and-mustard-painted facility in the city’s estuary, as an orchestra played the national anthem.

Rosatom CEO Alexei Likhachev hailed the new power station as “a new world first,” which he said “underlines the undoubted leading role of Rosatom and the Russian nuclear energy sector on the global agenda”.

“I hope today will be a symbolic day for the Arctic,” Likhachev said, adding that Rosatom “is setting a trend, a demand for medium-capacity nuclear facilities and mobile facilities, for many decades ahead.”

The 144-by-30-meter barge holds two reactors with two 35-megawatt nuclear reactors similar to those used to power icebreaker ships.

Akademik Lomonosov will be towed in the summer of 2019 to the port of Pevek in the autonomous Chukotka region in Russia’s extreme northeast.

The barge can produce enough electricity to power a town of 200,000 residents, far more than the 5,000 living in Russia’s northernmost town. But Akademik Lomonosov is not in Pevek to just keep the lights on in homes.

As Russia is forced to push further north into the Arctic in the search for oil and gas, it needs electricity in far-flung locations.

“The idea is to have low-capacity, mobile power plants that can be used in the Russian Arctic where large amounts of electricity are not needed”, and the construction of a conventional power station would be complicated and costly, said Sergei Kondratyev at the Institute of Energy and Finance in Moscow.

“The alternatives are coal, gas and diesel. But diesel is very costly,” he said, while the gas needs to be delivered as liquefied natural gas or LNG.

Vitaly Trutnev, who is in charge of the construction and operation of floating nuclear power stations at Rosatom, said such units would “supply electricity and heat to the most remote regions, supporting also growth and sustainable development”.

He said the use of such floating reactors can save 50,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year.

Akademik Lomonosov is set to replace an aging nuclear reactor and a coal-fired power plant, both of which are located in Chukotka.

Trutnev said the barge has “the latest security systems and should be one of the safest nuclear installations in the world”.

Activists of the environmental group Greenpeace are not convinced and call for international monitoring.

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