World's first floating nuclear power plant to begin operations

Akademik Lomonosov, the world's only floating nuclear power unit is ready to start commercial operations in Russia. The plant was launched by Russia on May 19, 2018 at the St Petersburg shipyard.

The power plant is ready to start generating power after a series of comprehensive and successful tests on its twin KLT-40 reactor system. The power generation at both of the 35-MW KLT-40C reactors achieved 100 percent of capacity on March 31, with subsequent tests confirming that both the main and the auxiliary equipment of the units, as well as the process control systems, were operating normally.

The power plant is expected to receive its operating license by July, subject to the test results.

Objective: Russia’s main objective behind the development is to meet its growing electricity needs in its drive to develop oil resources in remote Arctic regions.

Key Details

The ‘Akademik Lomonosov’ is to be the first of a fleet of floating nuclear power stations to be stationed in the Russian Arctic.

The 144-by-30-metre (472-by-98-foot) power plant holds two reactors with two 35 megawatt nuclear reactors that are similar to those used to power icebreaker ships.

The power plant has no propulsion of its own. It will be towed up North to avoid the steep cost of shipping it by land piece by piece to remote areas.

The plant is capable of producing enough electricity to power a town of 200,000 residents, far more than the 5,000 living in Pevek.

It is expected to operate for 40 years, with the possibility of the operating life being extended to 50 years and the two reactors will be refueled once every three years.

Significance

The floating reactor can help save 50,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions per year.

The facility is designed to replace the ageing four-unit Bilibino plant, with an aggregate 48 MW capacity and become the key power generation source in Chukotka Autonomous District.

Nuclear Titanic?

While, according to project in-charge Vitaly Trutnev, the power plant has the latest security systems and should be one of the safest nuclear installations in the world, environmental activists think otherwise.

Activists at the environmental group Greenpeace have called for international monitoring on the issue.

The activists fear that the nuclear plant could become a ‘nuclear Titanic’ or a ‘Chernobyl on ice’ 32 years after the Soviet nuclear disaster.

Besides Russia, China is also building a floating nuclear power plant.

About Soviet Nuclear Disaster

  • The disaster was a catastrophic nuclear accident that occurred in April 1986 in a nuclear reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant near Pripyat, a town in northern Ukrainian SSR, Soviet Union.
  • The disaster began during a systems test on 26 April 1986 at reactor 4 of the Chernobyl plant. There was a sudden and unexpected power surge.
  • When operators attempted an emergency shutdown, a much larger spike in power output occurred. This second spike led to a reactor vessel rupture and it was followed by a series of steam blasts.
  • The development exposed the graphite moderator of the reactor to air, causing it to ignite.
  • The resulting fire sent long plumes of highly radioactive fallout into the atmosphere over an extensive geographical area, including Pripyat. The plumes drifted over large parts of the western Soviet Union and Europe.
  • The Chernobyl accident is considered the most disastrous nuclear power plant accident in history, both in terms of cost and casualties.
  • It is one of only two nuclear energy accidents classified as a level 7 event (the maximum classification) on the International Nuclear Event Scale, the other being the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan in 2011.

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