Russia’s first floating nuclear power plant (FNPP) Akademik Lomonsov has set sail for the Far East, after nearly a decade of construction work.
In a statement on April 28, Russian nuclear operator Rosatom announced that the 70-MW station had set off from a shipyard in St Petersburg, bound for its permanent base in Russia’s northernmost city of Pevek, in the Far Eastern Chukotka region.
The FNPP will make the journey in two stages. First, it will be towed at a speed of between 3.5 and 3.5 knots to a berth in Murmansk controlled by Atomflot, the owner of Russia’s nuclear-powered fleet of icebreakers. Here it will be loaded with nuclear fuel and begin its physical start-up. The vessel will then depart for Pevek in the summer of 2019, along Russia’s Northern Sea Route (NSR).
In the meantime, construction will continue on the FNPP’s onshore infrastructure in Pevek, which includes a pier, hydraulic engineering structures, heat and power transmission facilities and waterworks. Akademik Lomonsov will start generating power towards the end of 2019, replacing output at the Bilibino nuclear power plant (NPP) and the Chaunskaya thermal power plant (TPP) in Chukotka. Bilibino’s first unit is slated to power down next year, and the entire station will be retired by 2021.
Akademik Lomonsov houses two 35-MW KLT-40S nuclear reactors, capable of providing enough heat and electricity for a town of 200,000 people. It was built at a cost of around 30 billion rubles (US$480 million), according to Rosatom.
The FNPP project has had a difficult history of cost overruns and construction delays. Work on the station originally started at the Sevmash shipyard in Severodvinsk in 2006, and its keel was laid in April 2007. However, in August 2008, Rosatom cancelled the contract, citing the heavy military workload at Sevmash. It then transferred the project to the Baltic shipyard in St Petersburg.
Further delays followed as a result of the shipyard’s bankruptcy and change of ownership. New keel-laying began in May 2009 and the hull was launched at the end of June 2010. The reactors were installed in October 2013. By 2015, the housing was completed and all the technological systems were installed. Mooring trials began in 2016.
As Arctic ice recedes, Russia’s NSR shipping route has seen a steady rise in traffic. Russian oil and gas producers have also launched a series of new exploration and development projects in the Arctic, as basins further south become depleted. With both of these trends set to continue, Russia has looked towards FNPPs as a possible solution for providing large amounts of power to remote locations in the country’s far north.