As talks continue about what the future of energy should look like, nuclear energy is getting a second look as a form of clean reliable electricity not only here in the U.S. Overseas, the Russian State Nuclear Energy Corporation, or Rosatom, has built a floating nuclear plant called the Akademik Lomonosov. This massive power plant will have the capacity to generate 70 megawatts of power, enough to provide electricity to 100,000 people.
One of the major benefits of floating nuclear technology is that the power plant can be moved to places that were previously considered hard to reach. For example, Chukotka is one of the most remote places in Russia, with most of its area located beyond the Arctic Circle. The area currently suffers from poor electricity transport links and the permafrost makes large-scale capacity construction difficult if not impossible. However, the Akademik Lomonosov will be relocated to Chukotka in August and is expected to be fully online providing heat and power to the region in December.
The plant has been approved for an operational lifespan of forty years, but that is likely to be extended to fifty years. At the end of its life cycle, the plant can be taken away for reactor replacement and maintenance without leaving any waste behind. Russia plans to build many more of these type power plants and eventually lease them to other countries where they can be used for both electricity generation and water desalination.
While the Akademik Lomonosov is currently the only plant of its kind operating in the world, the facility is actually not the first floating nuclear plant. Back in the 1960’s, the U.S. converted a retired World War II ship, SS Charles H. Cugle into a small nuclear power plant, renaming it the Sturgis. The Sturgis provided electricity for both military and civilian use in the Panama Canal until it was shut down in 1976 and eventually dismantled.
New advancements in nuclear energy technology are a cause for celebration as it’s becoming increasingly obvious that nuclear will have to be a major part of any serious effort to reduce emissions and ward off the worst effects of climate change while keeping our power grid stable. Fortunately the U.S. Department of Energy agrees. The DOE announced new funding for nuclear energy research just this past week. While we can’t say for sure what the future of nuclear energy will bring, it’s pretty exciting to see the world moving forward to support this important technology.