A Russian floating nuclear plant?

Two Russian companies plan to build the world's first floating nuclear power plant to deliver cheap electricity to northern territories. The construction should start next year for a deployment in 2010. The huge barge will be home for two 60-megawatt nuclear reactors which will work until 2050... if everything works fine.

In 'A Floating Chernobyl?,' Popular Science reports that two Russian companies plan to build the world's first floating nuclear power plant to deliver cheap electricity to northern territories. The construction should start next year for a deployment in 2010. The huge barge will be home for two 60-megawatt nuclear reactors which will work until 2050... if everything works fine. It looks like a frightening idea, don't you think? Read more...

Here are some details provided by Popular Science.

The Russian nuclear-energy company Rosenergoatom is planning a mobile plant to deliver electricity to hard-to-reach northern territories near the White Sea, where harsh weather makes regular coal and oil fuel deliveries unreliable and expensive. The $200-million floating plant -- slated for construction next year -- could provide relatively inexpensive, reliable electricity to 200,000 people.

In fact, the state-owned nuclear power monopoly Rosenergoatom will team with the Sevmash shipyard in the Arctic port of Severodvinsk to build this floating nuclear power plant.

But how will it look like? The image of this floating nuclear plant provided by Popular Science is really neat, but other sources show that this barge will maybe not look as nice. Here is a first example shown by euroarctic.com in "Controversial nuclear plant under construction" (March 14, 2006) and by MosNews.com in "First Contract to Build Floating Nuclear Power Plant Signed in Russia" (June 14, 2006).

Russian floating nuclear plant (image #1)

You also can read the first paragraph of an article of POWER Magazine published in August 2006, "Russia's new nuclear navy." Below is a digital artist's conception of this world's first floating nuclear power plant. (Credit: Sevmash)

Russian floating nuclear plant (image #2)

Let's now return to Popular Science for more facts about this project.

The Russian plan is to mount two reactors on a football-field-size barge, float it to a port, connect power lines to the mainland, and turn on the reactors, providing communities with affordable electricity.
The plant will store waste and spent fuel in an onboard facility that workers will empty every 10 to 12 years during regular maintenance overhauls. After 40 years, the normal life span for a nuclear plant, the decommissioned plant would be towed away and replaced with a new one.

Of course, this might work as forecasted. But the risks are very high. For example, such a floating plant could spill waste into the White Sea. But even more frightening, what will happen if the nuclear reactors melt into the water? Well, we'll see a radioactive steam explosion. And I wouldn't like to be close to such an explosion...

For more information, you also should read a long paper available on the Green Cross Switzerland website, "Floating Nuclear Power Plants in Russia" (PDF format, 85 pages, 0.99 MB), published in 2004.

Sources: Bjorn Carey, Popular Science, October 2006; and various websites

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