We hope FNPP technology will also gain interest in South Asia, including India, not only in terms of new opportunities to provide power supply to remote areas, but in terms of building extra seawater desalination facilities, too.
– Pavel Ipatov, Deputy CEO
of Rosenergoatom Concern JS
India knows firsthand what freshwater scarcity is and is looking for ways to overcome it. Seawater desalination is one the most efficient methods to battle this problem. The key challenge of this technology is electricity-related: for a desalination plant to operate effectively, it is necessary to maintain the continuity and stability of a 24-hour power supply. That is why Indian nuclear technology specialists are urging the construction of desalination plants in the vicinity of nuclear power plants. However, a solution like that is possible only in those regions where operating nuclear reactors are located, not everywhere. Floating Nuclear Power Plants (FNPP) under development in Russia might be a way out. They are designed to maintain both uninterruptible power and a plentiful desalinated water supply in remote areas. Pavel Ipatov, Deputy CEO of Rosenergoatom Concern JS updates us about the new Russian project.
What are floating nuclear power plants and what advantages do they have over conventional NPPs?
A floating nuclear power plant (FNPP) is basically a mobile low-capacity reactor unit operable in remote areas isolated from the main power distribution system or in places hard to access by land. It’s a new trend in the nuclear power industry that will make it possible to ensure power generation where it is needed within a minimum period of time. Russian ROSATOM State Atomic Energy Corporation is now constructing the world’s first floating NPP, the Academician Lomonosov.
The plant’s mobility will make it possible to relocate it from one site to another if necessary. From this perspective, floating power units are adapted in the best way for operation in hard-to-reach areas on the seashore or by large riversides far from the centralised power supply. The first floating NPP is to operate in the extreme northeastern Russian region of Chukotka, where there are plenty of oil and gas production facilities and gold mining and other mineral resource enterprises.
The plant is constructed as a non-self propelled vessel to be towed by sea or river to the operation site. Once on site, the FNPP is integrated into the coastal network to provide electric power and heat supply to residential areas. It has electric capacity of 70 MW and is equipped with two KLT-40C reactors of 150 MW thermal capacity each. A vessel like that can provide electric supply to a city of 200,000and heat supply to a million-plus city. An FNPP’s total operation period ranges from 35 to 40 years.
Conventional onshore NPPs are often equipped with desalination units to provide people with freshwater. Are floating NPPs going to be equipped like that?
The world has successful practical experience in combining nuclear generation with water desalination. In the city of Aktau in Kazakhstan in Soviet times a then-unique project to construct an NPP with a desalination complex of commercial scale was implemented. The desalination plant attached to the nuclear power plant went into operation in 1967 and provided a freshwater supply in full to the industrial facilities and people of the city for 35-40 years. Now this NPP is inoperative, but the desalination plant is still working with alternate heat generation. Back then, this project was implemented by Atomenergomash,a company that is now part of ROSATOM’s machine-building division.
The experience gained in that field and recent developments will also be used in the construction of Russian floating NPPs that will be capable of ensuring the operation of a desalination unit producing up to 240 cubic metres of water per hour. Due to this expertise, Russian FNPPs will be in great demand in the global small nuclear power market. In this field, we see significant potential in Southeast Asia and other regions of the world. Among other factors, memorandums of cooperation on floating nuclear power plants projects have been signed with China and Indonesia. Naturally, we hope that FNPP technology will also gain interest in South Asia, including India, not only in terms of new opportunities to provide power supply to remote areas, but in terms of building extra seawater desalination facilities, too.
How safe are Russian floating NPPs? What will happen in the event of an ocean storm, an earthquake or a tsunami?
A number of innovative solutions in terms of safety and resistance to natural disasters have been implemented in the design. The plant is initially designed with a safety margin that exceeds any possible extreme load. For example, in the city of Pevek in Russia the power plant is protected with a concrete guardrail that withstands an ice load in the wintertime and strong waves in the summertime.
Now the first floating NPP’s future crew is getting ready to work under real-life conditions. Operating procedures in the event of all sorts of emergencies are practised until they become automatic on a special training device simulating the central control desk. Specialists have allowed for all possible scenarios. The FNPP can withstand an earthquake of magnitude 12, wind speed up to 52 metre/second and ice thickness up to 2 metre.
In addition, nuclear processes at floating NPPs meet all International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) requirements and do not pose a threat to the environment. There will be an advanced radiation control system with ultra-sensitive sensors installed at FNPPs. All the advanced Russian-built systems are implemented.
When will the construction of the first Russian floating NPP be finished?
The construction is at its closing stage. The plant has already been floated out, fitting-out is underway. At the same time, since last July, the vessel has been undergoing mooring trials to test the FNPP’s performance efficiency and check whether its equipment and systems comply with design characteristics. The mooring trials are scheduled to be completed at the end of October. After that, the FNPP Academician Lomonosov will be ready to be transported and hauled by the Northern Sea Route to the operation site, where it will be integrated into the coastal network that is being constructed in the port of the city of Pevek. At the same time, construction of onshore facilities is underway on the FNPP’s future operation site. In 2019, the power unit installation on its proper location is expected to start, and then the FNPP will undergo final trials and be put into operation.
How many people are going to maintain the floating NPP’s operation?
A group of 300 power engineers are going to maintain the nuclear power plant. About 260 of them will work in shifts at the plant itself (130 workers a shift) to ensure the nuclear plant operation, and the other 40 will be engaged at the onshore facilities.
What is Russia’s plan for development of floating NPP construction in the future?
ROSATOM plans to develop this field further by constructing power plants like that both in Russia and in other countries that are already interested in obtaining them.