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Russia’s “Chernobyl on Ice” arrives safely at destination

PortandTerminal.com, September 11, 2019

Russia’s floating nuclear power plant has arrived at its destination in Pevek in Russia’s far east after being pulled almost 3,000 miles (4,700 km) from Murmansk. 

MOSCOW – Russia’s floating nuclear power plant, the Akademik Lomonosov (pictured above with its new paint job), has arrived at its remote Arctic destination in Pevek after sailing almost 3,000 miles (4,700 km) from Murmansk, marking a major milestone for Moscow’s experiment in portable nuclear reactors.

The 140-metre floating plant, dubbed a Chernobyl on ice or nuclear Titanic, is equipped with two KLT-40 reactors – similar to those used on icebreakers – that are due to generate a combined 70 megawatts of power and 50 Gcal/hour of heat energy. 

Akademik Lomonosov pre-paint job

The power plant will now begin to supply power to Chukotka to replace the Bilibino nuclear plant, the world’s only commercial power plant operating in a permafrost environment.

Rosatom, Russia’s nuclear corporation, which developed the plant, has estimated that the Akademik Lomonosov can power a city of 100,000 residents. Pevek’s population, however, is a mere 4,700, so the bulk of the plant’s electricity will power local mining operations and offshore oil drilling rigs.

The plant can operate for 12 years before it needs to be refueled.

Environmentalists say the project is a gamble. Greenpeace has dubbed the Akademik Lomonosov as a “nuclear Titanic“.

What’s particularly worrying is how the plant would cope with a major inundation from a tsunami or other hard-to-predict nautical event.

Rosatom, however, insists the plant is “virtually unsinkable” and can withstand blows from icebergs and wave up to 23 feet (7 metres) high.

As the ice melts, the Arctic’s waves get higher

Scientists have already observed wave heights in the Arctic well beyond the Akademik Lomonosov’s self-declared maximum tolerance.

The Arctic’s is melting at an unprecedented rate. Less ice means more open water to generate large waves—creating a dangerous feedback loop. Big waves smash up more ice than little waves, which creates more creates more open water, which in turn generates ever-larger waves.

As far back as 2012 scientists were recording extreme wave heights in the Arctic of over 16 feet (5 meters) in height. More recently in 2015 scientists observed wave heights of 30 feet (9 metres) high in the Arctic. That’s well beyond the self-declared tolerance of the Akademik Lomonosov which Rosatom says can handle waves of up to 7 metres in height.

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