The keel was laid for the world's first floating nuclear power plant at the Sevmash shipyard on 15 April. The Akademik Lomonosov will house two 35 MW KLT-40S nuclear reactors, similar to those used in Russia's nuclear powered ice breakers, and two generators, and will be capable of supplying a city of 200,000 people.
After decades of discussion, work has reached the first landmark stage in the development of floating nuclear power plants. Destined for the Archangelsk industrial shipyard in northwest Russia the Akademik Lomonosov will supply 70 MWe from two KLT-40S naval-developed reactors. It is estimated that the plant will cost around six billion roubles ($232 million) to build.
A ceremony was held at the Sevmash shipyard at which first Vice Premier Sergey Ivanov, the head of the Federal Atomic Energy Agency (Rosatom), Sergey Kiriyenko, and academic Yevgeny Velikhov fixed a memorable plaque on the body of the future plant.
Later, a memorandum was signed by Sevmash and Rosenergoatom (Russia's nuclear operator) for up to six more of the floating plants between 2008 and 2016. Two are envisaged for Pevek on Russia's Chukotka peninsula on the East Siberian Sea, while others are thought to be suitable for providing power to Gazprom's Arctic oil extraction operations. These uses would help Russia to achieve President Vladimir Putin's goal of having nuclear generate 25% the country's electricity by 2030.
The floating units could also be deployed in other countries for electricity and seawater desalination, operating for 15 years before returning to Russia for defuelling and maintenance. Other countries including China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Algeria, Namibia and Argentina are reported to have expressed in buying the plants, which could also be used for desalination.
Responding to safety concerns from the advent of a new type of nuclear installation, Kiriyenko cited the 2000 Kursk disaster as evidence of Russian naval nuclear excellence: "After the boat was raised, specialists proved that the reactor could be put into service that very moment."
"If today we are building low-capacity floating nuclear power plants based on 70 MWe ice-breaker reactors, tomorrow, we will start building medium-capacity plants based on unique technologies designed for nuclear submarines, ie 300-400 MWe" Kiriyenko said.
Some commentators, however, have expressed misgivings about the safety of the floating plants, particularly their potential vulnerability to accidents and terrorism.
WNA's Nuclear Power in Russia information paper
WNA's Nuclear powered ships information paper
WNN: Two floating nuclear plants for Chukotka