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Russian Floating Nuclear Plant Begins Operation

Monday, July 22, 2019

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Floating nuclear power plant Akademik Lomonosov has recently been issued a 10-year operating license for its two onboard reactors from Rostechnadzor, Russia’s Federal Environmental, Industrial and Nuclear Supervision Service.

The project was commissioned by Rosenergoatom, a division of the Russian State Nuclear Energy Corporation, also known as Rosatom.

About Akademik Lomonosov

Akademik Lomonosov was built by Baltisky Yard at Baltiysky Zavod—a St. Petersburg-based Baltic Shipyard—over a nine-year period and was first launched in April 2018. The facility measures 144 meters (472 feet) long, 30 meters wide and encompasses a displacement of 21,000 tons.

Margo.aga, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Floating nuclear power plant Akademik Lomonosov has recently been issued a 10-year operating license for its two onboard reactors from Rostechnadzor, Russia’s Federal Environmental, Industrial and Nuclear Supervision Service.

According to Rosatom, the floating nuclear power unit has two KLT-40S reactor units capable of generating up to 70 MW of electric energy and 50 Gcal/hr of heat energy during normal operation, enough to “keep the activity of the town populated with 100,000 people.”

Last summer, the vessel was towed around Scandinavia and had its first uranium fuel elements loaded into the reactors in Murmansk in July. By November, one of the reactors was successfully started and by late April of this year, the FNPP tested to 100% capacity.

Arctic Today reports that the vessel’s hull was coated at the Atomflot base using an ice-resistant coating under the barge’s classification assigned by the Russian Maritime Register. However, no details pertaining to the ice class for the Russian flag-themed paint job were provided.

Currently, Lomonosov is the only FNPP in the world, but it isn’t the first. From 1968-75, the U.S. Army used converted WWII Liberty ship into a smaller 10 MW MH-1A FNPP, renamed “the Sturgis,” in the Panama Canal Zone. A second floating plant was also slated to be stationed off the New Jersey coast in the 1970s, but was later halted due to public opposition and environmental concerns.

Project Criticism

Prior to HBO TV miniseries Chernobyl, the project received much criticism from environmentalist group Greenpeace, who dubbed the project "Chernobyl on Ice" and "floating Chernobyl,” and even went as far to collect 11,000 signatures against the original plan.

According to PaintSquare Daily News, when the plan was adjusted, Rashid Alimov, coordinator of the Greenpeace Russia anti-nuclear project, said that Greenpeace still considered the concept of a floating nuclear power plant too dangerous.

"The [FPU] ‘Akademik Lomonosov’ of project 20870 is the main project of the series of mobile transportable power units of low power,” Rosatom notes on its website. “It is designed to work as a part of the Floating Nuclear Thermal Power Plant and is of a new class of power sources on the basis of Russian technologies of nuclear shipbuilding.”

Now, in July 2019, Lomonosov's chief engineer for environmental protection, Vladimir Iriminku, further defends the project by telling CNN, “It's totally not justified to compare these two projects. These are baseless claims, just the way the reactors themselves operate work is different."

Adding that the barge’s operators have learned from the Fukushima, Japan nuclear disaster—which was much closer in size to the Russian vessel vs. Chernobyl’s 4,000 megawatt capacity­—as well.

"This rig can't be torn out of moorings, even with a 9-point tsunami, and we've even considered that if it does go inland, there is a backup system that can keep the reactor cooling for 24 hours without an electricity supply," said deputy director of Lomonosov, Dmitry Alekseenko.

However, Bellona—a nonprofit that observes the environmental impacts of nuclear projects—stated in April that 24 hours could prove to be an insufficient amount of time should the rig be torn from the moorings in conjunction with landing in a not easily escapable area.

"These reactors were initially to be used within city limits, but unfortunately the Chernobyl incident hindered that," said Iriminku. "Our citizens, especially if they are not technically savvy, don't really understand the nuclear energy and that these stations are built differently, so it's almost impossible to explain that to them."

Although the potential disaster Lomonosov could create was confirmed by Dale Klein, the former head of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Klein believes the comparison to previous disasters is a "scare tactic" and went on to say, "you'd have to make sure that that never happens."

What’s Happening Now

Officially announced in June, Akademik Lomonosov received its operation license from Rostechnadzor; valid until 2029, the license arrives after months of test-runs and mooring at service base Atomflot.

“Getting the FNPP operating license is a result of the complex longstanding work to develop a unique nuclear facility,” said Andrey Petrov, Director of Rosenergoatom.

Following the license approval, a ceremony was held on July 4, during which contractor Baltic Yard officially handed Akademik Lomonosov over to Rosatom through an acceptance certificate signed by representatives from the two state companies. The document officiates that the nuclear power plant has completed all necessary testing in addition to successfully met its requirements.

“This marks a significant milestone, it certifies that the obligations of the contractor to the customer have been fully met and that results are in line with the conditions of the contract,” said Petrov.

Moving forward, in August, the plant is slated to be towed to a mooring berth in the Arctic port of Pevek where it can be wired into the infrastructure, replacing an existing nuclear power installment on land. After all testing and supporting infrastructure is complete, Lomonosov is expected to begin producing its first kilowatt-hours of electricity in December.

The plant will power Chukotka and Pevek (home to roughly 55,000 people), the port of Pevek and natural resource companies working within the region. In addition, the FNPP also plans to replace the existing generating capacities of Chaun-Bilibino Energy Hub.

According to Interesting Engineering, the lifespan of the FNPP is 40 years, but could be extended to 50 years.


Tagged categories: Asia Pacific; Completed projects; EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Government; Government contracts; Infrastructure; Infrastructure; Latin America; North America; Nuclear Power Plants; Offshore; Port Infrastructure; Program/Project Management; Project Management; Ships and vessels; Z-Continents

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