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29/7/2014 20:51
RIA Novosti

Analysis & Opinion

Russia will build floating nuclear power plants

11:11 16/07/2007
MOSCOW. (RIA Novosti commentator Tatyana Sinitsyna) - Since 2006, Sevmash, the main company of the Russian State Nuclear Shipbuilding Center, has been working to complete a floating nuclear power plant in northern Russia that will be launched in 2010 and moored in a nearby harbor.

This technological marvel will raise quite a few eyebrows and cause widespread apprehension, because the world still fears everything connected with nuclear power.

The floating NPP, three to five hectares in area, will power Sevmash's production and social infrastructure, and will generate heat and desalinate seawater. In fact, the ship, like a small island with two KLT-40S reactors, could be towed anywhere. It would not be an exaggeration to say that floating NPPs are a godsend for Russia, a vast country with many sparsely populated areas washed by numerous seas.

Russia, which plans to build many floating NPPs by 2020, does not have to modify the State Maritime Doctrine. Viktor Opekunov, chairman of the nuclear energy subcommittee of the State Duma energy, transport and communications committee, said floating NPPs cannot be classified as ships, because they are not self-propelled and must be towed to their respective destinations.

He said they have nothing to do with the Maritime Doctrine and would not threaten the environment, because nuclear fuel would be transported separately and loaded onboard floating NPPs in isolated bodies of water surrounded by dams.

These NPPs, which are a vital element of the national energy program, the G8 strategy to prevent energy crises and the current renaissance in nuclear power, were developed in order to meet growing power demand in remote Russian areas. For instance, the Russian Far East faces regular power outages because the local power industry is not very reliable.

It appears that the second floating NPP will be towed via Russia's northern sea route through the Arctic Ocean to the small town of Pevek in the Chukchi Autonomous Area and will provide the local seaport and meteorological station, as well as gold, tin, and coal mines and mercury producers, with an unlimited amount of electricity.

There are plans to moor the NPP in the Chaunskaya Bay in the East Siberian Sea near Pevek, or it could be taken ashore on pontoons and spend its entire service life powering the town. Specialized sea-going ships would rotate NPP personnel and bring in fresh nuclear fuel.

Opekunov said the floating NPP's design and engineering solutions take into account Russia's extensive experience operating civilian nuclear-powered ice-breakers along the northern sea route. He said their reliability is almost completely assured by the fact that different nuclear-powered ships have been operating for hundreds of reactor-years.

Apart from two reactors, the floating NPP has technical facilities and accommodations for the crew and can be connected to coastal transformers, pumps, heating mains, etc. When operating at full capacity, it can power a city with a population of 200,000 or desalinate 240,000 cubic meters of seawater every 24 hours.

The floating NPP has been designed in such a way as to make it invulnerable to terrorist attacks. The latest achievements of science and technology will prevent anyone from stealing fissionable materials from aboard the floating plant. All workers will be fingerprinted and their iris patterns used for identification purposes. In fact, the plant's sturdiness means it could even withstand a possible attack by divers or a plane crash; in the latter case, its reactors would continue to function as usual.

Nevertheless, Russia will not offer the floating NPP to all prospective customers but will sell its heat, power and drinking water instead. This will help prevent the spread of nuclear technologies.

After a contract is signed with a foreign country, the NPP would be towed to its coast under the Russian flag and would start operating in a safe harbor. The NPP's service life is guaranteed by the infrastructure of the Russian nuclear sector.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's and do not necessarily represent those of RIA Novosti.

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