Russia's floating nuclear power plant (credit; Rosatom)Russia is planning a new generation of floating nuclear power plants (FNPPs) based on the RITM reactor and already has some projects under consideration.

The economic characteristics of the Russian project of a modernised floating nuclear power plant make it competitive in the global market, the head of Rosatom’s engineering division Atomenergomash, Andrey Nikipelov told the annual International Forum "Arctic: Today and the Future," in St Petersburg.

"In the nuclear energy industry, each project is unique and the floating power plant Akademik Lomonosov  is not an exception. To replicate this experience and broaden the opportunities for its use, we have initiated the project to develop an optimised version of similar power plants, the prime cost and construction period of which are significantly lower…with the power capacity being increased," he said. Atomenergomash has already developed a draft project for a modernised FNPP and is preparing to start its construction, he added.

"Now we are shifting to the next phase – the implementation of a full-fledged project – and will actively cooperate with potential customers to carry out a more detailed study of their requirements," he noted.

Nikipelov stressed that the updated design, although simpler than the Akademik Lomonosov, would have its power capacity would increased to 100MWe compared with 70MWe, and it would be able to operate for up to ten years without maintenance of its nuclear reactors. The plant's crew would be stationed on the shore, and its displacement would therefore be almost four tonnes less than the Akademik Lomonosov's.

Russia is considering constructing a new FNPP to provide power for one of the world's largest copper and gold deposits – the Baimsky Mining and Processing Plant (GOK) in Chukotka, according to Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Trutnev, Plenipotentiary of the President in the Far Eastern Federal District (FEFD).

He told the forum "FEFD 2020" on 10 December: “We are now all together with the Ministry of Energy, the Ministry for the Development of the Far East and the Arctic, considering all the conditions for the implementation of the project for the development of the Baim ore zone in Chukotka and a nuclear power plant will have to be built in order for it to take place," he said.

The issue of power supply for the plant has been raised at the federal level several times. In total, 11 options  were considered. In May the relevant departments selected two priority options for providing a large copper-gold deposit with electricity. The first one involves the construction of a thermal power plant at the port near Cape Nagleinyn- Peschatka and a 220kV Nagleynyn substation. The second project provides for the use of four modernised floating power units with the RITM-200 reactor unit.

Previously, the government was inclined to the plan for a floating LNG plant with a capacity of 356MWe, for a total investment of RUB38 billion ($500m). However, the government may now reject Novatek's LNG option in favour of with a small domestic floating nuclear reactor under Rosatom's Project 20870 (RITM-200). Although Rosatom's plan has higher costs ($1.8 billion) for five reactors with longer operating times, Trutnev said the expansion of the small floating nuclear reactor project will allow Rosatom to dominate an energy market segment that no other country has yet acquired. The final decision will be made by Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin following a detailed analysis of the cost of capital, time to complete the project, funding sources, operating costs as well as the risk of electricity price changes.

According to Kommersant, the Novatek project is being criticised because of the low level of localisation. Analysts point out that the choice is between supporting the promising but much more expensive Russian nuclear technology and a modern, efficient and cheaper LNG project. However, the project implementation time is longer than for the Novatek project. Rosatom promises to establish the first two units (100MW each) by early 2027, and two more – from the fourth quarter of 2028. The need for electricity in 2025-2026 would be covered by the capacities of Akademik Lomonosov.

Rosatom told Kommersant that for investors in the Baim project it is not the power plant capex that is important, but the final cost of electricity calculated for the entire duration of the mine development project.

“[Nuclear] generation allows you to fix the cost of electricity for the entire operation of the mine. This is critical for the investor. The investor in these conditions does not depend on market volatility and is not exposed to the risks of an increase in the cost of fuel for the plant. Today, no one is able to predict the cost of gas on the horizon of 30 years,” Rosatom explained. Rosatom also noted that the share of fuel in the cost of the final kWh when using gas is several times higher than for nuclear power, where it is less than 10%.

Rosatom’s project includes one reserve FNPP for cyclic fuel replacement and repairs. In addition, once every five years, the reserve power unit can be used as replacement capacity for Akademik Lomonosov during maintenance overhauls, Kommersant sources say.

The service life of the MPEB can be increased from 40 to 60 years, while the service life of a floating LNG power plant is 15–25 years (it can be extended by replacing the turbines). After completion of construction, the LNG plant would be transferred to the management of RusHydro, while Rosatom will manage the FNPP independently.

Photo: Russia's floating nuclear power plant (Credit: Rosatom)