Russia advances on plans for new floating nuclear power plants

The headquarters of Rosatom in Moscow.

Credit: Charles Digges / Bellona

A Russian plan to build more floating nuclear power plants advanced this month after two subsidiaries of Rosatom, the Russian state nuclear company, signed a cooperation agreement to power an isolated mining facility at the northeastern tip from Siberia.

The new hydraulic installations will come as a follow-up to the Akademik Lomonosov, the daring experiment on floating nuclear power that Rosatom connected to a remote port of Chukotka in 2019 after spending more than a decade building it, amid objections from environmentalists.

The deal is also part of Rosatom’s growing interest in building nuclear power plants based on small modular reactors, or SMRs – a technology the company sees as a solution to energy shortages in remote areas. Since January, the company has been developing a power plant based on such reactors in the Siberian region of Yakutia, promising that it will be operational by 2028.

The new deal unites Atomflot, Rosatom’s nuclear icebreaker wing, and Atomenergomash, its engineering division, with the goal of building what officials have called “simplified” floating nuclear power plants, each based on a pair of 55-megawatt RITM-200 reactors –– the type featured in Russia’s next-generation nuclear icebreakers.

Mustafa Kashka, CEO of Atomflot, said the deal was important for the entire global small reactor market.

Under the new agreement, four floating factories will be deployed at the Baimsky copper and gold mining project in Chukotka – located closer to Alaska than to Moscow – by the end of 2026.

Development of the remote site requires a complex, multi-partner regional plan involving the Russian government, the regional government and developer, KAZ Minerals, which itself expects to spend up to $ 110 billion. Out of all the partners, more than $ 1.5 billion will be spent on power plants and transporting the future mine.

On September 4, the project moved forward with the signing of a “preliminary agreement” for the power supply by Kashka and Oleg Novachuk, chairman of KAZ Minerals subsidiary GDK Baimskaya in Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok.

“Thanks to the agreement with Atomflot, it is possible to economically develop the largest Baimskaya field, which is located in a remote area where there is no suitable infrastructure,” Novachuk said, according to World Nuclear News. .

Nuclear energy is already playing a role in the development of Baimskaya since the first installations there are supplied by the Akademik Lomonosov. KAZ Minerals said the plant will provide up to 20 MWe of nuclear power to the mine during its construction phase.

According to earlier reports in Russian media, Rosatom will build three new floating factories at the Baltic Shipyard in St. Petersburg, the shipyard where almost all Russian nuclear icebreakers, as well as the Akademik Lomonosov, were built.

A fourth identical factory, also built at the shipyard, would be kept in reserve and put into operation when any of the original three needed refueling or maintenance, Rosatom CEO Aleskei Likhachev said over the years. official Tass press in August. He added that this fourth factory could also serve as a standby unit for the Akademik Lomonosov, whose old KLT-40 reactors require refueling every 12 years.

The new deals reached this month confirm Russian media reports from May in which many government officials hinted that President Vladimir Putin had given the green light to supply the Baimskaya fields with floating nuclear power plants. It is also in keeping with Rosatom’s broader ambitions, which have long revolved around the notion of building a smaller, more streamlined version of the imposing. Akademik Lomonosov, both for remote mining and hydrocarbon companies, and for marketing to overseas customers.

In December, Tass’s official newswire quoted Russian politicians as saying that many foreign countries are interested in acquiring what they call “optimized” floating nuclear power plants. While it is unclear which countries these are precisely, Rosatom has long claimed that unspecified governments in North Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia were interested in acquiring floating nuclear power plants.

Tass also reported that Rosatom was in talks with Cuba over land and floating reactors. The company also discussed the possibility of building a floating factory for Sudan in 2018.

The first two, the four new floating nuclear power plants, are expected to be installed at their workplace in Chaunskaya Bay in the East Siberian Sea by 2026. Once there, they will be connected to power lines extending over 400 kilometers to the Baimskaya mine. The third unit is expected to be connected in late 2027, bringing the total power to around 330 megawatts.

Bellona has opposed Russia’s aspirations to build floating nuclear power plants since the Akademik Lomonosov Construction began in 2006, and published a detailed catalog of its concerns in a report it released in 2011.

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