Artist impression of Akademik Lomonosov, Russia’s first floating nuclear power station

Russia is building the world’s first floating nuclear power plant for mass production.

The plant is designed to create enough electricity for 45,000 people and will have the added ability to purify sea water into fresh water.

But the plan is drawing criticism from environmental groups.

Al Jazeera’s Neave Barker gained rare access to the first of several plants being built in Russia’s St Petersburg.

SOURCE: Al Jazeera


Floating nuclear power stations, lit. floating combined heat and power low-power nuclear station, are vessels projected by Rosatom that present self-contained, low-capacity, floating nuclear power plants. The stations are to be mass-built at shipbuilding facilities and then towed to the destination point in coastal waters near a city, a town or an industrial enterprise. Although the world’s first floating nuclear power station was MH-1A, the Rosatom project represents the first mass production of that kind of vessel. By 2015, at least seven of the vessels are supposed to be built.


Artist impression of Akademik Lomonosov, Russia’s first floating nuclear power station. Construction of the vessel, the Akademik Lomonosov began in 2007 and work is planned to be completed in 2011. It will then be towed to a position off the coast at Vilyuchinsk, a town in the far east of Russia. With a length of 144m, a width of 30m and a displacement of 21,500 tonnes, the floating power plant is the first in the world to be ‘mass’ produced by Rosatom, the Russian state nuclear authority. Five of the vessels will be built for Gazprom, Russia’s largest energy provider, enabling it to use power drilling equipment to exploit some of the remotest oil and gas fields in the world in the Barents and Kara seas.

The project of Russian floating nuclear power stations started in early 2000s. In 2000, the Ministry for Atomic Energy of the Russian Federation (Rosatom) chose Severodvinsk in Arkhangelsk Oblast as the place for building the first floating power generating station. Sevmash was appointed as general contractor. Construction of the first floating nuclear power station,Akademik Lomonosov, started on 15 April 2007 at the Sevmash Submarine-Building Plant in Severodvinsk. However, in August 2008 construction works were transferred to the Baltic Shipyard in Saint Petersburg, which is responsible also for construction of the next vessels. Akademik Lomonosov was launched on 1 July 2010.

The floating power stations need to be refueled every three years while saving up to 200,000 metric tons of coal and 100,000 tons of fuel oil a year. The reactors are supposed to have a lifespan of 40 years. Every 12 years, the whole plant will be towed home and overhauled at the wharf where it was constructed. The disposal of the nuclear waste will be organized by the manufacturer and supported by the infrastructure of the Russian nuclear industry. Thus, virtually no radiation traces are expected at the place where the power station produced its energy.

A prototype for a series of Russian floating nuclear power stations will be protected against hull corrosion with a Cathelco impressed current cathodic protection system (ICCP).

Designed to provide nuclear power in remote regions of the Arctic, the hull of the floating power plant is being constructed at the Baltiysky Zavod yard in St Petersburg. It will then be installed with two nuclear reactors providing up to 70MW of electricity, enough to serve a city with a population of 200,000.

The Cathelco ICCP system will protect the submerged surface of the hull against corrosion by ‘neutralising’ electro-chemical activity. It consists of a control panel and an arrangement of anodes and reference electrodes mounted on the surface of the hull. The reference electrodes measure the electrical ‘potential’ at the hull/seawater interface and send a signal to the control panel which raises or lowers the output to the anodes, ensuring the optimum level of corrosion protection at all times.

Cathelco are supplying a 300amp system for the vessel with two elliptical anodes positioned port and starboard at the stern and a further two midships. Both the anodes and reference electrodes are diver changeable enabling them to be replaced without the need for drydocking, an important factor in vessels with long operational lives and infrequent drydocking periods.

Floating nuclear power stations are planned to be used mainly in the Russian Arctic. Five of these will be used by Gazprom for offshore oil and gas field development and for operations on the Kola and Yamal peninsulas. Other locations include Dudinka on the Taymyr Peninsula, Vilyuchinsk on the Kamchatka Peninsula and Pevek on the Chukchi Peninsula. In 2007, Rosatom signed an agreement with the Sakha Republic to build a floating plant for its northern parts, using smaller ABV reactors.

According to Rosatom, 15 countries, including China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Algeria, Namibia, Cape Verde and Argentina, have shown interest in hiring such a device.


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