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Nuclear power tries its sea legs

Russia has announced plans to build a floating nuclear power plant by 2016. 

By John C.K. DalyGuest blogger / July 12, 2013

Steam rises from the cooling towers of nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle, in Waynesboro, Ga., in this file photo.

Mary Ann Chastain/AP/File

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So much for the lessons of Fukushima. Never mind oil spills, the Russian Federation is preparing an energy initiative that, if it has problems, will inject nuclear material into the maritime environment.

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Speaking to reporters at the 6th International Naval Show in St. Petersburg, Baltiskii Zavod shipyard general director Aleksandr Voznesenskii said that the Russian Federation’s first floating nuclear power plant “should be operational by 2016.”

Baltiysky Zavod is Russia’s biggest shipbuilding complex. According to Voznesenskii, the "Academician Lomonosov" FNPP will be the first vessel belonging to the new line of floating nuclear power plants that can provide energy, heat and water to remote and arid areas of the country, with mass production scheduled for the near future.

The "Academician Lomonosov’s" technology is based on the USSR’s construction of nuclear-powered icebreakers. The Russian media is speculating that the FNPPS will first be used in remote areas of the northeastern Arctic Russia and the Far East, as these regions currently suffer from a lack of energy, slowing their development.  Each 21,000 ton vessel will have two “modified KLT-40 naval propulsion reactors” that will provide up to 70 megawatts of electricity or 300 megawatts of heat, sufficient for a city with a population of 200,000 people. Additionally, the floating NPPs can provide water desalination services capable of supplying up to 240,000 cubic meters of fresh water per day. 

Perhaps referring to Soviet-era nuclear icebreakers is not such a hot idea, at least for those with historical memories. (Related article: Climate Policy Spells Turn Around for Exelon)

Launched in 1957, the Lenin, the USSR’s first nuclear powered icebreaker, was powered by three OK-150 reactors. In February 1965, there was a loss of coolant incident, and some of the fuel elements melted or deformed inside reactor number two. The debris was removed and stored for two years, and subsequently dumped in Tsivolki Bay near Novaia Zemlia two years later. The second accident was a cooling system leak, which occurred in 1967, shortly after refueling. 

Not a reassuring developing for the Soviet Arctic environment.

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