How Safe are the Floating Nuclear Power Plants of Russia ?

by OldSailor on May 22, 2008

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Russia is presently building the world’s first Floating Nuclear Power Plant (FNPP) of 70 MW ‘Academic Lomonosov’. The project was launched in 2007 and is expected to be commissioned in 2011. Five such plants are expected to be operational by 2020. The FNPP under the Russian flag would operate in coastal states that had signed the necessary agreements. The FNPP would drop anchor in a safe place protected from potential natural disasters and operate with the assistance of local engineering services available on shore.

The interesting features of Floating Nuclear Power Plant are:

  • under construction at Severodvinsk, Sevmash Shipyard located at northern White Sea which is the main facility of the State Nuclear Shipbuilding Centre.
  • to generate 1/15th of the power produced by a standard Russian nuclear power plant.
  • to be equipped with two power units using KLT- 40S reactors.
  • reactors will be loaded with nuclear fuel once every three years.
  • cost of electricity: just 5 or 6 cents per kilowatt.
  • the first plant would cost around 10 billion Rubles ($ 0.42 billion).
  • the remaining plants would cost around 5 to 6 billion Rubles ($ 0.2 to 0.25 billion) each.
  • designed to be protected from the following potential terrorist threats using fingerprint and iris identification technologies.
    • unauthorized access to fissile materials onboard the plant
    • against possible subversive attempts by terrorist divers
    • nothing would destroy the reactor even if an airliner as big as a Boeing crashes on the plant
  • will also be able to supply heat and desalinate seawater.
  • on desalination mode, will be able to produce 240,000 cubic meters of fresh water a day.
  • will save up to 200,000 metric tons of coal and 100,000 tons of fuel oil a year.
  • will have a life span of 40 years.
  • every 12 years the plant will be taken to Russia for overhaul.

More than 20 countries have shown interest in this project. Cooperation in this project with India,China,Indonesia and many African,Latin American countries are in pipeline. Depending on the agreement it may involve technology transfer or sale of only products of the plant: like electric power, heat and fresh water.

Here is the longitudinal section of a FNPP.

floating_nuclear_power_plant_1

1. Living area. 2. Nuclear Power Plant operating room. 3. Reactors. 4. Steam Turbine installation. 5. Power Generation area. 6. Storage area for spent fuel

How safe is this Floating Nuclear Power Plant ?

A report from Green Cross Russia (GCR), a public, non-governmental organization which promotes protection of the environment, highlights the following:

A. In terms of number of accidents or malfunctions:

Here is a chart showing number of malfunctions during the period 1994-2002 on board atomic icebreakers which is alarming:

nuclear_accidents_1

yellow = malfunctions leading to a start of the emergency response systems; violet = all other incidents.

The possibilities of such accidents or malfunctions in FNPP may not be lesser than these past records.

B. Impact of Human Error

Human errors in FNPP can not be ruled out and this may lead to

  • the FNPP sitting on a bank with a tilt of e.g. 30 degrees and make it more difficult to use cold seawater to cool the reactor.
  • the overturning of the entire FNPP leading to damage to the reactor core equipment and making it impossible to insert the absorber rods.
  • the sinking of the FNPP itself.

C. Impact of natural disasters

With increasing number of cyclones,earthquakes and tsunami, the damage to FNPP can not be ruled out. Subsequent impact of nuclear radiation would be phenomenal.

Here is the full 85 page report of Green Cross Russia (GCR) on ‘Floating Nuclear Power Plants in Russia: A Threat to the Arctic, World Oceans and Non Proliferation Treaty’.

View an interesting video clip on FNPP from sea-fever blog.

Update: July 25

The construction of FNPP ‘Mikhail Lomonosov’ gets delayed due to diversion of funds by the builder Sevmash Shipyard. Read more from Bellona.

Update: September 06

Now the birthplace of the first-ever floating nuclear power plant will be the Baltic Sea instead of the White Sea. FNPP is expected to be ready by 2010. Read more from RIA Novosti.

Update: May 05, 2009

A St. Petersburg-based shipyard will also start building the floating offshore nuclear power plant on May 18. The contract to build the facility worth 9.9 billion rubles ($303 million) for the Rosatom state-run nuclear power corporation was signed in late February 2009.

The FNPP already under construction at Baltiysky Zavod shipyard is expected to be completed by the fourth quarter of 2012.

Read more from RIA Novosti.

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