Russia has announced that the world’s first floating nuclear plant will be online by 2019. Shipping corporation LLC Baltiysky Zavod Shipbuilding and the state nuclear power company Rosenergoatom have joined forces to construct the Akademik Lomonosov despite ongoing struggles at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant in Japan.
The first-of-its-kind ship will contain a pair of small nuclear KLT-40 naval propulsion reactors that will be capable of generating up to 70 megawatts (MW) of electricity. This is enough to provide electricity, heat and desalinated water to a city of 200,000 people.
Construction on the Akademik Lomonosov began on 15 April 2007 at the Sevmash Submarine-Building Plant in Severodvinsk. The ship is estimated to cost $232 million and when it becomes operational will supply power to Severodvinsk town and Sevmash itself.
In 2019, when it launches, the 472ft long ship will be crewed by 69 people, who will monitor the on-board reactors.
Of course, there are certain safety concerns about what is essentially a mobile nuclear device, but instead of using highly enriched uranium like traditional Russian icebreakers’ reactors, the Akademic Lomonosov’s units will be modified to run on lightly enriched uranium that conform to the International Atomic Energy Commission rules aimed at preventing fuel from being stolen and diverted for use in nuclear weapons.
The ship’s owner has also said that the reactors would be “resilient in a disaster,” though they don’t cite what these disasters would be.
The floating power station would provide power and heat to isolated consumers in remote areas that do not have centralized power supply. In Russia, there are many large population centers and ports in the Arctic and the Far East coast, not to mention mineral deposits and military bases that would benefit from the energy.
Nuclear power plants at sea? A good idea having them in a more remote area or just increasing the possibility of a disaster?