A floating nuclear power plant. We haven’t heard that before, have we?
Yet here one comes now in the form of Akademik Lomonosov, a floating power plant built by Russia. It has just been towed out of St. Petersburg, where it was constructed. The floating plant will be towed all the way to the Arctic to set up base in the port of Pevek in the Chukotka Region where it is scheduled to start operating in the summer of 2019.
Initially, the floating nuclear power plant was to have been tested in St. Petersburg, but under pressure from environmentalists it will now be done so in the port city Murmansk in Russia’s far north. The floating plant’s mission, once it starts operating, is to produce power for sparsely populated areas in remote regions where no other large-scale power sources are available. The plant will reportedly be capable of providing a town of 100,000 people with enough electricity all year round.
The plant is quite a feat of engineering. A nuclear power plant with a reactor complex is housed inside a warehouse-like superstructure. Also aboard is a helipad so that technicians can come and go with relative ease as they oversee the operations of the plant’s operations.
“Today is an important day for us, because, in fact, the fact of the towage of PEB means that the basic shipbuilding work is completed,” explained Alexei Rakhmanov, president of the United Shipbuilding Corporation, which constructed the plant. “After the arrival of the power unit in Murmansk, preparation of the facility with the participation of Baltzavod and OSK specialists for testing and further operation will begin.”
The floating plant’s opponents remain concerned, however. They have dubbed Akademik Lomonosov “a floating Chernobyl,” voicing fears that the floating power plant might start malfunctioning, or worse, triggering an environmental catastrophe. “To test a nuclear reactor in a densely populated area like the centre of St. Petersburg is irresponsible to say the least,” said Jan Haverkamp, a nuclear expert for Greenpeace Central and Eastern Europe.
“However, moving the testing of this ‘nuclear Titanic’ away from the public eye will not make it less so: Nuclear reactors bobbing around the Arctic Ocean will pose a shockingly obvious threat to a fragile environment which is already under enormous pressure from climate change,” he added.
Greenpeace’s expert went on to warn that “This hazardous venture is not just a threat to the Arctic, but, potentially, to other densely populated or vulnerable natural regions too.”
Yet that does not mean that there would be no takers for floating power plants. According to Russian media reports more than a dozen countries from China to Argentina have expressed interest in having one. The plant’s designers stress it will be environmentally safe because it will not release hazardous substances during its operation.