Russia launches floating nuclear power plant Akademik Lomonosov
The launch is part of a wider ambition by Russian President Vladimir Putin to develop the Northern Arctic region [Maxim Shemetov/Reuters]
A massive vessel, the world’s only floating nuclear power plant, has left its dock in the Russian port of Murmansk and is on it’s way to the arctic town of Pevek despite opposition from environmental groups.
The 144 metres long and 30 metres wide vessel, named the Akademik Lomonosov after the 18th century Russian scientist, houses two nuclear reactors. It will be towed 6,000 kilometres to the remote Siberian region of Chukatka, about 86 kilometres from the US state of Alaska, after leaving port on Friday.
Once docked, the 21,000 tonne barge will replace a coal-burning power plant and an aging land-based nuclear plant and will supply 50,000 people in the area with electricity, according to Russia’s state nuclear corporation.
The floating vessel will be the northernmost nuclear plant in the world, and will also power the extraction of natural resources in the region when it starts operations next year.
Russia’s state corporation has described the vessel as a “pilot project”, with plans for widespread development and use of similar designs.
Russia, the US and several other countries have long used nuclear reactors to power sea vessels, including ice breakers and submarines, but the Russian vessel is set to be the only floating nuclear power plant of its kind when it begins operations next year.
Scientists in China and researchers at the US-based Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are also working on sea-based nuclear plants, and France has explored the possibility.