The Russian Federal Nuclear Energy Agency (Rosatom) has made a decision to build a 70MWe floating nuclear power plant. Construction could begin in 2006.

The mini-station will be located in the White Sea, off the coast of the town of Severodvinsk (in the Arkhangelsk region in northern Russia). It will be moored near the Sevmash complex, which is the main facility of the State Nuclear Shipbuilding Center.

The plant would be equipped with two KLT-40S reactors and would be able to meet all the requirements of Sevmash’s population of 200,000 for just 5-6¢/kWh. The plant would also be able to supply heat and desalinate seawater, but no plans to do so have yet been announced. If a similar plant were devoted entirely to desalinisation it would be capable of producing 240,000m3 of fresh water each day.

The units will be loaded with nuclear fuel once every three years and will have a lifespan of 40 years. Every 12 years the plant will be sent home and overhauled.

“If conditions are favourable, the floating plant could be operational in four to five years’ time,” said Yevgeny Kuzin who is general director of the public joint-stock company Malaya Energetika and leader of the project.

The main condition necessary for the project is said to be funding. The plant would cost about $200,000, and finding firms will to invest in such a longer-term project would not be easy.

This first-of-a-kind plant off the coast of Severodvinsk will therefore aid sales to potential customers like Indonesia, Malaysia, and China, which have all expressed interest.

The power unit, which would be housed on a 20,000t, 175m-long Chinese-built barge would be positioned near to on-shore support infrastructure housing transformers, pumps and heat supply units

The technological principles underlying the project have been proven during the 30 years that Russia’s civilian nuclear-powered ice-breaking fleet has operated on the Northern Sea Route. Kuzin says these vessels have shown themselves to be highly reliable and that they do not have any kind of radioactive impact on the environment. “When the plant is decommissioned and pulled out, it leaves absolutely no pollution,” he said.

On future exports, Kuzin said: “Russia will only sell its products – electric power, heat and fresh water. This means that there is no cause for concern with respect to the proliferation of nuclear technologies. A floating plant under the Russian flag would be taken up to the coasts of states that had signed the necessary agreements. It would drop anchor in a convenient place that was protected from potential natural disasters and contact local engineering services on the shore.”