One version of a floating nuclear power plant. The one currently under development is set to be ready sometime between 2016 and 2019. (Felix/Wikimedia)
If space runs out on land to build more nuclear power plants, we can always move operations to the oceans. At least that’s the plan in Russia, where a floating plant is being developed.
The ship, called Akademik Lomonosov, is the first of its kind and will hold two nuclear reactors, according to a news release from Russia’s State Atomic Energy Corporation Rosatom, the plant’s developer. “It can be used to generate electric power and heat, and also to desalinate seawater,” reports news site Russia Beyond the Headlines. “Its service life is estimated at least 36 years — three cycles of 12 years each, with reactor reloading in between. The crew, including replacement and reserve headcounts, numbers around 140.”
Originally the plant was scheduled for completion in 2010. Now some news outlets report a projected 2016 end, while still others say 2019.
Although Russia may be the first country to take a project like this to completion, it’s not the first to think of it, reports National Geographic. The United States contemplated it back in the 1970s. And more than a dozen countries have expressed interest in such a plant, according to Russian news site RT.
What about the environmental concerns of putting nuclear reactors in the middle of the ocean? “Instead of using highly enriched uranium like traditional Russian icebreakers’ reactors, the Akademik Lomonosov’s units will be modified to run on lightly enriched uranium that conform to the International Atomic Energy Commission rules aimed at preventing fuel from being stolen and diverted for use in nuclear weapons,” Inhabitat states. “The ship’s owner has also said that the reactors would be ‘resilient in a disaster,’ though they don’t cite what these disasters would be.”
In September, two nuclear reactors were installed in the vessel’s hull, a Rosatom news release reported. “Work on the project has intensified in the past months,” notes Sergey Zavyalov of Rosatom, “which gives us strong confidence that the floating unit will be ready in time.” But will the world be ready?