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Engineering feat of the month: Akademik Lomonosov

07/02/2020
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The way in which power operates in Russia has been given a serious shake-up courtesy of the Akademik Lomonosov, the world’s first ever nuclear power station to be entirely floating and located on a ship.
Russia has shaken up the nuclear power industry with the announcement of the world's first floating nuclear power plant

History

While many countries have toyed with the idea of taking nuclear power plants offshore, Russia will be the first to actually do so. Construction of Akademik Lomonosov was undertaken by the state nuclear energy corporation Rosatom at the Sevmash Submarine Building Plant, located in Severodvinsk. The intention being that Akademik Lomonosov would go on to supply the power for the city, as well as the Building Plant itself. In August 2008 however the work was relocated to the Baltic Shipyard in Saint Petersburg, where installation of the reactors took place.

The launch took place in June 2017, with the vessel to be located at Vilyuchinsk in the Far East of Russia.

Anatomy

Currently set to start producing and operating in 2019, to coincide with the shutting down of the nearby Bilibino Nuclear Power Plant, the Akademik Lomonosov is 144 metres (472 ft.) long and 30 metres (98 ft.) wide and has a tonnage weight of 21,500. Around 70 people will make up the crew of the vessel, which is estimated to have cost in the area of 30 billion rubles  (around £400 million) to manufacture. It features three decks, ten compartments, and includes the capacity to store both fresh and spent nuclear fuels, as well as the liquid solid waste that the process accrues.

Two modified and Russian designed KLT-40 naval propulsion reactors will provide up to 70 MW of electricity or 300 MW of heat.  These reactors, fuelled by uranium, will be used alongside two turbines which will be steam powered. Each reactor is designed to withstand pressure by being encased in a steel hermetic containment unit.

Performance

The aim of the Akademik Lomonosov is to produce enough power to supply a city population of 200,000, which will be produced offshore then transferred onshore. In order to do this, the main power generating unit and equipment is located on the vessel, which cooperates and works closely with a dock area that handles the onshore elements and transmission of the electricity and heat. As the floating plant is not self-propelled, it is towed to the required area, meaning that location changes are possible if needed. The lifespan of the floating nuclear power station is up to 40 years, with the operating cycles being 12 years each. Following each cycle, the Akademik Lomonosov will be taken for any necessary repairs or minor upgrades, alongside fuel checks and top-ups. The end of the cycle will also see the removal of accumulated radioactive waste.
Once fully operational the Akademik Lomonosov is expected to produce enough power to supply a city of 200,000 people

Safety

Concerns have been raised about how safe the notion of having an offshore nuclear plant is. Environmentalist groups have suggested that the location could prevent backup power being efficiently supplied in the event of an accident.

Others have pointed out however, that its location works as a safety measure, ensuring that the plant is less susceptible to problems caused by events such as earthquakes and land movements. They have also suggested that the threat of a meltdown is reduced, due to the underwater location of the reactor's active zone.

The Future

Russia plans the vessel to be the first of a fleet of offshore floating power plants, and envisages that large amounts of electricity and heat can be supplied in remote areas by them. There are also plans for the country to lease the plants to others for use in their function of electricity generation, as well as other possible activities. Conversion for use as water desalination plants is also seen as a potential future purpose.

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Engineering feat of the month: Akademik Lomonosov - Time to read 4 min
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