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Is Russia’s Floating Nuclear Powerplant Safe?

A nuclear power breakthrough by Russia is drawing concerns from the international community


What's going on?

In August 2019, an unusual vessel named the Akademik Lomonosov arrived in Pevek from Murmansk which drew global attention. Part of the attention is due to the vessel being so uncommon, as it is a floating nuclear powerplant equipped with two reactors. Its purpose is to provide power to the region, replacing its previous power source. According to ROSATOM, Russia’s state nuclear corporation, the vessel’s reactors can generate 300 megawatts of thermal energy – enough to support a city of up to 100,000 people.


However, there is much concern about this new concept, especially with Russia being involved in several high profile nuclear incidents. Despite this, ROSATOM insists the vessel is inherently safe with a high safety margin against natural disasters. This concept is also not new with a converted ship, the SS Charles H. Cugle supplying the U.S Army with power at the Panama Canal Zone. The reactors on the Akademik Lomonosov are also of relatively low power compared to other well-known reactors. In comparison, U.S. Navy nuclear aircraft carriers produce 1,100 megawatts of energy while the ill-fated reactor four at Chernobyl produced 3,200 megawatts of energy. On the contrary, Akademik Lomonosov generates only 300 megawatts which is a far cry from the rest.


Furthermore, in a nuclear accident, the primary issue is runaway heat generation. In this case, the reactor would be in the Arctic Ocean, which would supply all the cooling necessary for it. However, despite these counter-arguments, one of the main points of contention is that Russia is generally slow to release information about its nuclear programs and any past accidents. Russia’s transparency remains to be the main issue for the international community.


Russia Launches Floating Nuclear Reactor. Is It Safe?