A floating nuclear power plant has been connected to the Russian grid and has started generating electricity for an isolated are of Russia.
The state-owned nuclear company in Russia, Rosatom, released a statement back in December stating that the Akademik Lomonosov is now producing electricity to the arctic port town of Pevek, Chukotka, in the remote far east area of Russia. The isolated town has a population of around 5,000 and cold temperatures all year round, especially during the winter months.
Rosatom describe the floating plant as the only power unit to float in the world. It is hoped that the Akademik Lomonosov, which set off from the Russian port Murmansk back in August of 2019, will become an integral part of the power supply for the Chukotka region of Russia. The floating plant contains two KLT-40C reactors with a combined capacity of 70 megawatts.
Even though Rosatom claims it to be the first floating nuclear power plant, there is a strong history dating all the way back to the 1960s that show the United States had a ship, Sturgis, which they converted into a floating power plant.
Rosatom claim that this floating nuclear plant is ideal to provide a reliable power source to isolated land masses whilst also being a ‘green’ source of energy. Rosatom also claim that they have had interest in the floating nuclear power plant from countries in the Middle East, Southeast Asia and North Africa.
Now that this first-generation plant has been deployed Rosatom are turning their attention to a second-generation floating plant. This new generation would be available for export and constructed in series to the first.
The director general of Rosatom, Alexey Likhachev, released a statement last year stating how the floating power plant is a ‘momentous’ occasion for the company and the Chukotka area that it will be benefitting.
He went on to state that the floating nuclear power plant would supply a guaranteed reliable and green energy to the businesses and people in the area.
Whilst some people are seeing this new technology as a step in the right direction others are still sceptical of nuclear power and its wider effects.
For example, the high-profile disaster that took place in Fukushima in 2011, when a tsunami that was caused from a large earthquake led to a meltdown of the nuclear power plant in Fukushima. Furthermore, activist groups such as Greenpeace are against the move. The plant has been labelled as the ‘nuclear titanic’ or ‘Chernobyl on ice’ by the group.
Rosatam claim that the floating plant has been designed with a large margin of safety which goes beyond any possible threats. The plant is therefore protected against tsunamis or any other natural disaster. They also claim that the nuclear processes which take place on board meet the requirements of the International Atomic Agency (IAA) and don’t pose any danger to the environment.
However, a professor from UCL, Paul Dorfman, has said that the floating power plant is not that significant in energy terms however it a significant risk. This therefore means that the energy output from the plant potentially is not worth the risk of something going wrong with it. He went on to say that all nuclear power plants are susceptible to external events which may not have been planned for that can lead to them having a devastating effect.
Prof Dorfman also believes that the unknown effects a nuclear accident in the arctic could end up being a fatal and therefore not worth the risk.