It will be interesting to see how this new approach to deploying nuclear energy affects the discussion around offshore energy. Will it be offered up as "clean" (i.e. carbon neutral) energy alternative that coastal communities opposed to the development of offshore wind farms or LNG facilities will have to consider?
Two articles follow: a recent one (April 15th) announcing Russia's intention to begin construction on the first in a series of offshore nuclear plants, and one published last fall that provides a bit more context. (GW)
Russia constructing floating nuclear power plant
Russia justifies the program as a way of bringing power to some of the country's most remote areas, also saying some of the plants could be sold to other nations.
The head of Russia's atomic energy agency, Sergei Kiriyenko, said the plants will be safe.
"This plant is much safer than atomic energy stations on the ground," the RIA-Novosti news agency quoted him as saying at a formal ceremony at the Sevmash fabricating plant in Severodvinsk on the White Sea coast.
He cited the 2000 sinking of the nuclear submarine Kursk as evidence of the reliability of the plants, which will use reactors similar to those on the submarine.
"After the boat was raised, specialists proved that the reactor could be put into service that very moment," he said, according to RIA-Novosti.
The atomic energy agency and Sevmash today signed a document on their intent to build six more floating power plants, the ITAR-Tass news agency said.
It cited the atomic energy agency as saying that talks were under way on selling the plants to unspecified Asian and African countries as well as to Russian regions.
Russian Company to Build Floating Nuclear Power Plant; 'Maybe It Will Turn Out Great'
October 16, 2006
A Russian energy company has plans to construct a floating nuclear-energy plant on a football-field size barge to deliver electricity to inhabitants of northern territories near the White Sea.
Rosenergoatom said the 200 million U.S. dollar facility will be constructed next year and will provide relatively inexpensive, reliable energy to 200,000 people in a region where harsh weather makes regular coal and oil fuel deliveries unreliable and expensive.
Engineers would standardize construction for multiple plants in an offsite factory with increased quality control and reduced production costs before tugging a plant to its port of call.
The Russian plan is to mount two reactors on a barge, float it to a port, connect power lines to the mainland, and turn on the reactors, providing communities with affordable electricity.
The reactor and spent fuel would go to a storage facility, but the barge could be recycled.
One concern is that a boat could ram the plant and spill waste into the water.
In a worst-case scenario, an overheated core could melt through the bottom of the barge and drop into the water, creating a radioactive steam explosion. Such a cloud could do far more damage than the plume of nuclear fallout kicked up by the 1986 explosion of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the former U.S.S.R., Lochbaum notes, because the human body absorbs radioactive water droplets more easily than it does radioactive ash.
Rosenergoatom has permission and intends to have the facility afloat in the port city of Severodvinsk in the southeastern White Sea by late 2010.
"Maybe it will turn out great, but I just hope they did all the research to make sure it's safe."