Russia’s Floating Nuclear Reactor

nuke, plant, ship, MIT, russia, electricty, carbon, greenBy 2016 Russia plans to have the world’s first waterborne nuclear power plant. Named the Akademik Lomonosov, the 144 meter long ship/power plant will have a displacement of 21,500 tons and will be crewed by 69 people.

The Akademik Lomonosov will be capable of producing 70 MW of electricity; enough power for a city of 200,000 people. Russia believes that their new mobile reactor design can be used to power remote regions of the country’s Arctic North and Far East, areas that are currently experiencing an explosion of growth.

Although Russia is spearheading the development and manufacture of the Akademic Lomonosov a number of nations including China, Indonesia, Algeria, and Argentina have expressed interest in acquiring their own floating nuclear plant.

While naysayers may poo-poo the idea of a floating nuclear reactor, the reality is that nuclear reactors have been propelling submarines through ocean deeps since 1954. The Akademic Lomonosov will generate its electricity from a workhorse of the Russian navy, the KLT-40 nuclear fission reactor that’s most commonly found on Taymyr-class icebreaking ships.

Still, in the wake of the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear disaster, rigorous precautions have to be taken to prevent a catastrophic failure. A sunken reactor would be a disaster, to put it mildly. While the ship’s designers say the vessel will be safe from natural disasters, like tsunamis, they’ve given little detail as to why that would be the case.

An interesting side note is that the Akademic Lomosonov can be modified to be a floating desalinization plant.  At full throttle the ship would produce 240,000 cubic meters of fresh water every 24 hours.

In the future, nuclear energy may be an important element in a low-carbon energy infrastructure. Creating relatively cheap, mobile nuclear plants will be key to the proliferation of this technology. Currently, nuclear plants can cost upward of $10 billion dollars to create, whereas the Akademik Lomonosov would come in around $336M. If the failure precautions are really there, this sounds like the right technology at the right time to me.

Image Courtesy of Russia Times