UPDATE: Rosatom attracting investment for four more floating nuclear power plants – while first still languishes in dry dock

Publish date: March 4, 2009

Written by: Charles Digges

Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom and the far northern Siberian Republic of Yakutiya signed an agreement last week to mobilize investment for the construction of four floating nuclear power plants for use along the Republic’s coastal areas on the Arctic Ocean, Rosatom officials have confirmed.

Details of the arrangement were reported by Interfax, a Russian state controlled news agency. The report, republished on Rosatom’s website, said the agreement was signed on February 24th .

Rosatom officials reached by telephone on Wednesday confirmed the Yakutiya investment project, and called the potential building of the four new floating nuclear power plants “historical.”

The announcement of the new floating plants comes a day after Rosatom and Germany’s Siemens AG signed a memorandum of understanding to team up on a joint venture that would encompass all aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle, from fabricating fuel to decommissioning old nuclear installations. The two companies predicated their union on a forecasted 400 new nuclear reactors expected to be built worldwide by 2030.

Show us the money

But Alexander Nikitin, director of Bellona’s St. Petersburg offices, dumped cold water on ambitious plans.

“There is no answer to that question today. Therefore all the announcements and memorandums of intent are nothing more than PR that has no economic basis.”

In a speech Kiriyenko gave two days ago in the industrial city of Podolsk, near Moscow, he indicated that, “the demand for equipment for construction in Russia of three to four nuclear reactors a year will likely appear later than expected.”

“The catch is that Rosatom doesn’t have any money of it’s own for expensive toys like nuclear reactors and floating nuclear power plants,” said Nikitin, adding that Kiriyenko had counted on investment from Russian businesses giants like Gazprom and Noriilsk Nikel, and well as an infusion from the Russian federal budget.

First floating plant still in dry-dockNikitin’s statement are borne out by the current situation of Russia’s first floating nuclear power plant, which has been punted from its first shipyard to a second for completion.

In May of that year, an investigation by Bellona Web revealed that most of the money that had been earmarked at Sevmash for the construction of the floating nuke plant had been spent on other projects.

But Rosatom, according to the Interfax report, still insists that the plant will be ready by 2010.

Refueling the plants every four to five years would involve towing them hundreds of kilometers back to the Murmansk or Arkangesk regions, as would any scheduled or unscheduled maintenance. 

Spent fuel would also have to be transferred from the plants at naval shipyards or Atomflot, the Murmansk area base for Russia’s nuclear icebreaker fleet, from where it would be shipped to the Mayak Chemical Combine for reprocessing.

But plans to launch the first operational water based unit have by many indications fallen behind: The only standing order for a floating plant remains the Mikhail Lomonosov, which is slated to heat Severodvinks.

The Rosatom official told Bellona Web that no location has yet been chosen for the construction of the floating nuclear power plants bound for Yakutiya. The Barents’ Observer report indicated that the Baltiisky Shipyard and Severodvinsk are the main contenders.