Floating nuclear power plants becoming a reality

Russian State Atomic Energy Corporation Rosatom said today that floating nuclear power plants will become a reality by October 2017.

Ahead of this deadline, Rosatom has just commenced construction of the coastal infrastructure and hydraulic structures for the start of such a power unit in Russia’s far eastern city of Pevek, Russia.

Rosatom plans to install the first power generating unit in September 2019 and expects to produce energy from these units in November 2019.

Floating nuclear power plants (FNPP), which are basically mobile power units, have been conceptualised to provide reliable power supply to remote settlements and large industrial facilities such as oil platforms. Development work on such plants began in the 1950s when Soviet scientists designed a mobile power plant on a four mobile tracked chassis.

These scientists also designed what is known as a Sever, which is a floating nuclear power plant. However, later, both projects were deemed unfeasible and shut down and all the activities were wound up.

Decades on, it is becoming a reality especially with the potential to supply electric power to remote regions. To operate successfully, these FNPPs need appropriate land-based refueling facilities once every few years. Hence there is the need for infrastructure along coasts.

Based on what has been used as commercial power units in nuclear icebreakers, Rosatom took the decision to restart the work on FNPP so as to supply power to civil facilities, such as large industrial enterprises, port cities, offshore oil and gas production and refinery complexes.

There is already some commercial interest. Barely two years ago, Rosatom subsidiary Rusatom Overseas JSC and China National Nuclear Corporation New Energy signed a MOU to cooperate in FNPPs. China has said it is planning to use FNPPs for development and electric power supply in some of its remote region.

Rosatom said that besides electric power generations, such a plant can also produce qualitative potable water from sea water. The FNPP includes a floating power unit and a floating desalination unit that may use either remorse osmosis or multi-stage evaporating systems. Such plants are interesting for a number of European, Middle East and North Africa countries experiencing a severe shortage of potable water.

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