Russia’s Floating Nuclear Power Plant Reaches Arctic Port It Was Built For
First of a series that will power up the Northern Sea Route
After a 5,000-km sea ride, Russia’s pioneering floating nuclear power plant has reached its final destination on the Arctic coast and will soon deliver megawatts and gigajoules of energy to consumers on land.
The Akademik Lomonosov was towed from Murmansk, a major port city in northwestern Russia, all the way to the far eastern region of Chukotka, reaching a small town called Pevek on Saturday. The trip lasted 22 days and required a couple of tow boats to move the barge, which lacks its own propulsion, and an icebreaker to deliver the convoy safely through the chilly Arctic waters.
The floating power station was docked in Pevek at a pier built for it in advance, which has all the communications necessary to connect it to the local power grid and heating system. Some work is still required for integration, but operator Rosenergoatom says the plant will be operational before the end of the year.
The ship is the first in what Russia hopes will be a series of floating nuclear power plants, factory-ready to supply electricity and heat to remote spots like Chukotka, where cheaper alternatives are not available. Isolated islands and large offshore oil and gas rigs are among the potential clients.
So are ports scattered along Russia’s Arctic coast servicing the North Sea Route, a waterway that Moscow pitches as a viable alternative to the Suez for maritime traffic between Europe and Asia.
Pevek is one such outpost, but was chosen largely for the pilot deployment due to its unique energy situation. The entire area is serviced by two old power plants, one coal and one nuclear, which both need to be decommissioned soon. The floating generator will serve as a stopgap, allowing these facilities to be phased out and replaced with something modern without rushing.
Incidentally, Chukotka will for a while be the first Russian region with two different nuclear power plants operating simultaneously once the addition to its energy system is running. Usually, if more electricity is required in an area, additional reactors can be built at the same plant to meet the demand.
The Akademik Lomonosov has two KLT-40S reactors derived from a time-tested design used for Russia’s nuclear-propelled icebreakers. They have relatively low output, generating 35MW of electric power each, but still can supply a city with 100,000 residents.
The second floating nuclear power station will use a different type, RITM-200M, which produces more power and requires less space, which means the ship carrying them can be made smaller and thus easier to tow and dock without compromising safety.