Russia has said the world’s first floating nuclear power plant is ready to start producing electricity in its northeastern tip in a move that should ring alarm bells in the Philippines and Vietnam as Beijing is reportedly keen to send similar barges into the South China Sea.
Russia’s so-called floating Chernobyl is ready to begin supplying electricity, according to the Russian authorities.
Environmentalists ask whether a floating nuclear power station can cope with an Arctic storm and similar questions could be asked about a South China Sea typhoon.
Last year, Greenpeace said “nuclear reactors bobbing around the Arctic Ocean will pose a shockingly obvious threat to a fragile environment which is already under enormous pressure from climate change”.
China reportedly plans a fleet of nuclear stations in the contested South China Sea where Beijing is expanding its military presence on artificially extended islands in maritime territory internationally recognised as belonging to Vietnam and the Philippines and also partially claimed by Brunei, Taiwan, Indonesia and Malaysia.
The 144-metre long and 30-metre wide Akademik Lomonosov (pictured) is due to power the isolated town of Pevek in Chukotka province on Russia’s northeastern coast but it could theoretically be towed wherever there is a demand for electricity.
Russia’s nuclear agency, Rosatom, has reported the successful testing on the ship’s twin KLT-40 reactors.
Andrei Petrov, an energy chief at Rosatom, said the successful tests meant an operating licence would be issued in July.
He said the vessel was due to be linked to the Pevek grid and begin heating the city by the end of 2019.
Ominously for environmentalists, Rosatom has a US$133 billion, 10-year export order book with the floating plants seen as far cheaper and quicker to produce than a land-based nuclear power station.
China is starting to build its first floating nuclear power station this year, the state-owned China National Nuclear Corp (CNNC) has told the officially controlled Xinhua.
CNNC said there were no technical issues facing the creation of a fleet of oceangoing reactors.
Chinese newspapers reported that a prototype barge was already on trial off eastern China’s Shandong province. Shandong’s Qilu Evening News said last year that a 14-billion yuan (US$2.1 billion) floating nuclear power station would be seaworthy and commissioned in 2021.
Chinese state broadcaster CCTV hinted at the possibilities for the devices to create when it reported in March that they “can dynamically adjust mooring position according to needs, for remote areas, important islands and offshore oil and gas exploration platforms [to] provide clean electricity, heat and freshwater”.
Kremlin mouthpiece Tass said the Russian ship’s two 70-megawatt reactors could power a city of 200,000 people.
The lifecycle of the floating plant is 40 years with the possibility of being extended to up to 50 years.
The Akademik Lomonosov. Picture credit: YouTube