Russian designs for underwater nuclear power plant in Arctic

20 July 2023

A project for a submersible underwater power module, featuring two nuclear power units with a total capacity of 20 MWe, that can dive to a depth of 400 metres and provide energy in Arctic regions is being worked on by the Malakhit Marine Engineering Bureau in St Petersburg, Russia.

A conceptual model of how the underwater power module might look (Image: Strana Rosatom)

Strana Rosatom, the Russian nuclear corporation's magazine, reported that being able to reach such depths will "reduce the risk of collision with icebergs", adding that "the module will operate autonomously with periodic maintenance: once every three months it will be checked by up to six specialists".

The intention is "to provide energy to deposits in the Arctic shelf zones and remote northern garrisons - territories where traditional power plants cannot be located".

According to the project page on the Malakhit website, the advantages include the ability to have "controlled diving and ascent with the help of eight anchor lines" and "increased seismic resistance when hovering in the water column".

It is not clear how far advanced the project is, but the ambition to create an underwater nuclear-powered complex is not a new one - in 2016 Interfax reported on a Russian project where studies and 3D modelling had been completed for a reactor "that meets the requirements of the IAEA".

There was a similar project launched by France's DCNS - building on its experience of making submarines for the French navy - in 2011 which proposed a small offshore nuclear power plant called Flexblue which would be a cylindrical unit 100 metres in length and 12 to 15 metres in diameter and would have featured pressurised water reactor technology similar to that of a nuclear submarine and produce "50 to 250 MWe".

Russia already has a programme producing floating nuclear power plants. The Malakhit Marine Engineering Bureau is part of United Shipbuilding Corporation and describes itself as specialising in the design of marine equipment including those with a nuclear power plant, with its main activity including "the design, construction and testing of nuclear and diesel submarines".

Researched and written by World Nuclear News