By Dr. Rene Tebel
Since May 2020, the world's first floating nuclear power plant has been supplying electricity to the town of Pevek, and since the end of June, it has also been securing heating. This news, which at first glance seems unspectacular, proves to be a milestone in the economical development of Siberia.
In late summer of 2019, the 140-metre long and 30-metre wide "Akademik Lomonosov" of the Russian nuclear company Rosatom was pulled from Murmansk to Pevek (Chukotka region), which is located almost 3,000 nautical miles to the east. Pevek, Russia's northernmost city and easternmost Arctic port, which is located in permafrost in a bay on the shore of the East Siberian Sea.
The living conditions are harsh. The cold season lasts from September to June. Temperatures as low as minus 33 degrees Celsius are common and the Yushak, a wind that can be very harsh all year round, transforms the landscape into a snow desert within minutes in winter.
Nevertheless, Pevek will boom, even if the population decreased from 12,000 people to about 4,000 between the 1980s and the 1990s. The reason is its location as a port on the Northeast Passage.
This shipping route between Europe and East Asia is expected to become ice-free all year round in the coming decades as a result of climate change. And Pevek is one of the gateways to the rich deposits of gold, uranium and mercury in the tundra of Siberia as well as for oil and gas.
Picture: courtesy of Rosatom
Up till now, the Soviet-style industrial settlement was dependent on energy from the 76 year old Chaun coal-fired power plant. If the heating network was switched off, Rosatom reports in a press release, the hot water also failed.
But these adversities will come to an end. As Russia's eleventh and northernmost nuclear power plant, the "Akademik Lomonosov" will gradually take over the energy supply of the city and its surroundings and ensure that the environmentally harmful coal-fired power plant Chaun can be shut down - which had been the original idea according to Vitali Trutnew, head of the directorate for the construction and operation of the floating nuclear power plants at Rosenergoatom.
Equipped with two KLT-40S reactors producing an electrical output of 35 MW each, the ship is theoretically designed to supply about 100,000 people. Although critics see the mobile nuclear power plant as a "floating Chernobyl," the "Akademik Lomonosov" will become a driving force for the economic development of the region and for the exploitation of Siberian mineral resources for the next 40 years.
One of these projects is the Baimsky copper and gold mines, which is supposed to be a deposit for 23 million tons of copper and 2,000 tons of gold, as the Barents Observer reported in 2018.
The idea of small floating modular nuclear power plant units also seems to have a future market for developing countries; Janne Wallenius, Professor of Reactor Physics at Stockholm's KHT, believes that this could supply "remote areas around the world, including island regions" with electricity, as Rosatom quotes him in a press release.
This article was republished with the permission of Tebel Report
The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of Al Bawaba News.
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