- The vessel Akademik Lomonosov set sail from the port of Murmansk in August.
- The history of this technology stretches back many years to the 1960s. The US has also successfully converted a ship into a floating nuclear power plant.
In a statement last week, Russia’s state-owned nuclear company Rosatom said the Akademik Lomonosov had started to produce electricity in the “isolated Chaun-Bilibino network” in the Port of Pevek, Chukotka, which is located in the Far East area of Russia. Rosatom explains this vessel as the world’s “only floating power unit,” it is envisions that the M/V Akademik Lomonosov, which set sail from the Russian Port of Murmansk last August, will become an important part of the Chukotka area’s power supply. It has two KLT-40C reactors which have a capacity of 35 megawatts each. Rosatom describes the facility as a “first of a kind”, the history of floating power plants stretches back decades, yet the US converted a ship called the M/V STURGIS into a floating nuclear power plant during the 1960s.
As a symbolic gesture, the first volts of electricity pumped out by the plant lit up a Christmas tree on the icebound village’s central square.
Rosatom says the floating nuclear power plant is suited to remote areas and “island states” which need stable and in Russia’s own words, “green,” sources of energy. Rosatom boasts that interest in this floating technology is coming from North Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Rosatom has previously said that it is already working on second-generation floating power units that will be constructed in a series and available for export.
In a statement issued at the end of August, the Director General of Rosatom described the launch of the floating power plant as a “momentous occasion for our company and for the Chukotka region.” They added that the M/V Akademik Lomonosov would “guarantee clean and reliable energy supplies to people and businesses across the region.” While there is excitement in some quarters surrounding the scheme there are concerns surrounding nuclear power projects. This is in part due to high profile events such as the Japanese Fukushima disaster of 2011, when a powerful earthquake and tsunami resulted in a meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Rosatom said that its floating nuclear power plant has been designed with a “great margin of safety” which exceeds “all possible threats,” and makes the nuclear reactors invincible to tsunamis and “other natural disasters.” It adds that the nuclear processes at the facility meet requirements from the International Atomic Agency and do not pose an environmental threat. The University College London’s Energy Institute issued statement saying, that while the M/V Akademik Lomonosov was not all that significant in terms of energy productions, it is “significant in terms of risk.” All nuclear power plants are vulnerable to unforeseen external events through human or engineering-based fault conditions, which include accidental or deliberate harm.
The university added that whatever your views on nuclear power, it is clear that “the possibility of catastrophic accidents must be factored in — and the risk to people and the environment as a consequence of a major incident to a floating reactor is very significant indeed.”
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