Libmonster ID: BY-1583
Author(s) of the publication: Marina KHALIZEVA

by Marina KHALIZEVA, journalist

Early in 2013 one of the key stages in the construction of the first in the world offshore nuclear thermal electric power station (ONTEPS) Academician Lomonosov was completed in St. Petersburg. The specialists of the Baltiysky zavod--Shipbuilding company in the presence of the customer Rosenergoatom concern as a part of the Rosatom state corporation installed two 300 ton tanks of metal-water protection acting as a reactor base, biological barrier and cooling loop. The reference model is designed to open perspectives for radical modernization of energy infrastructure in remote regions of our country, reduce volumes of northern deliveries and provide exploitation of mineral resources in the regions of the Far North and on the shelf of Arctic seas.

Model of the first in the world offshore thermal electric power station.

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Academician Lomonosov is a representative of a new class of mobile power plants. Our atomic industry was engaged in their creation for all past years. ONTEPS was born on the basis of experience and knowledge accumulated by several generations of scientists and engineers who created nuclear plants for combat and civil vessels. Up until the 1990s our industry produced 12 power blocks for ships annually. The long intensive running in harsh conditions of ocean cruises and ice navigation proved their power supply reliability and a high level of safety.

These considerations were overriding during creation of ONTEPS, a nonself-propulsion vessel with two reactors KLT-40C of 70 MW total electric output and a maximum thermal capacity of 146 Gcal/h. Just like a ship, a power plant is created at the shipbuilding yard and, after full-scale tests, commissioned on a "turnkey" basis. Then the customer delivers by sea the ready for operation power plant to the place of designation. The recipient has only to erect additional coastal and hydraulic structures ensuring installation of this floating block and transfer of heat and electric energy to consumers. After 36 years of its operation (3 cycles of 12 years each, between which the vessel will be sent to a repair dock for replacement of the used equipment and reloading of reactor cores) the power plant will be delivered to a technological base of the national atomic fleet for disposal. The buildings and structures on the site can be dismantled by an industrial method (they contain no radioactive materials) or used for building a new power block.


ONTEPS is adjusted for operation in regions remote from centralized power supply. In Russia they are the Far North and the Far East, which are not a part of the Unified Power Supply System. They, first of all, need reliable and cost-effective energy sources.

Nowadays diesel power plants are the main type of power generation there. The generated power is expensive due to difficult delivery of fuel. The Rosenergoat-om experts have computed that it exceeds the same in the European part of our country more than tenfold. But construction of nuclear power plants of small output (up to 50-100 MW) offers substantial reduction in volumes of imported diesel fuel and boiler oil and also in the value of electric and heat energy 2-3 times.

Modular construction of equipment and its assembly in workshop conditions are a substantial argument in favor of installation of offshore nuclear power plants there. In this case there is no need to deliver large volumes of building materials and manpower to remote geographical regions. Moreover, preliminary works at the installation site can be carried out concurrently with construction of a floating power block. It means that the construction period of ONTEPS decreases as com-

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Components of KLT-40C plant.

pared with ground nuclear power plants almost by two years. Besides, the vessel (144 m long, 30 m wide and of 21.5 thous. t displacement) and a coastal territory (0.8-1.5 ha) occupy an area by an order of magnitude lesser than is required for ground nuclear power plants. After all, it is a vital aspect in conditions of a limited construction base of the Arctic and Far Eastern regions.

The possibility of their work on a watch basis is another reason in favor of mobile nuclear power plants (NPP). The total strength of a key production staff will amount to ~176 men including 64 of a shift crew living on board the vessel and changing every four months. By comparison, high-capacity stationary NPP employ thousands of specialists. Even the smallest Bilibinskaya

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Configuration of the floating power block with KLT-40C reactor plant.

ÍPP (4 power blocks of 12 MW each) on Chukotka is serviced by more than 600 men.


The first floating nuclear reactor was used by the Americans for providing operation of a research base in the Antarctic (1962-1972) and the Panama Canal (1966-1976) connecting the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. The vessel Sturgis equipped with a 45 MW nuclear plant, which supplied electricity to the canal locks and pumps of the Isthmus of Panama, facilitated a transit route to the ships heading for the war in Vietnam. It enabled the Americans to navigate additional 2.5 thous. ships annually. According to our specialists, the American project was rather an audacious engineering and technical experiment than a commercial specimen of ÍPP. But at the same time they stressed that the Sturgis gained practical experience and thus proved the possibility of construction of offshore nuclear power plants.

But the Russian atomic scientists, who suggested their project of ONTEPS early in the 1990s, initially developed it for power supply of the remote northern territories. The then conducted large-scale feasibility studies in high latitudes specified over 80 populated localities fit for planning small ÍPP But a complex and prolonged period of the market reforms prevented from development of the project. The deadlock was broken in 2000 when Rosenergoatom signed a declaration of intent to construct an energy source of a new generation with the Sevmash* Production Association (Severodvinsk, Arkhangel Region), a major shipbuilding enterprise. Two years later the company was licensed by the Gosatomnadzor of the Russian Federation to construct the object. In 2005, after long expert reviews the board of the Federal Atomic Energy Agency finally approved the project with ZAO Atomenergo as general planner of the floating power block Station and Iceberg Central Design Bureau as general designer of the block, both organisations from St. Petersburg.

See: M. Khalizeva, "'Sevmash' Arctic Project", Science in Russia, No. 2, 2013.--Ed.

The year 2007 became symbolic because it was then that in Severodvinsk on the stocks of Sevmash the foundation for a low capacity nuclear power plant was laid, and it was named after the first Russian natural scientist Mikhail Lomonosov (1711-1765)*. But at the end of 2008 due to overloading of Sevmash with defense orders, Rosenergoatom decided to pass on the construction of the main block to St. Petersburg. In February of 2009 it concluded a contract with the Baltic Works, one of the leading shipyards and a part of the Joint Shipbuilding Corporation, for completion and putting the unit into operation. Already in May of 2009, the Petersburg ship-builders started erection works, and a year later ceremonially launched a ship.

But at the end of 2010 the project faced financial difficulties. The bankruptcy of Mezhprombank. which credited the dockyard, caused serious financial problems at the Baltic Works. As a result its shares turned out in trust management of the Joint Shipbuilding Corporation, and the hull, mechanical and electric works were suspended on the ship. Completion of the long-suffering object was resumed one and half year later, when the corporation unwilling to miss such a profitable transaction created the Baltiysky zavod--Shipbuilding company, which received the whole competence of the bankrupt business and also its 3,000 work collective. Under the contract it is bound to complete the project by September 9, 2016.

It should be noted that Rosenergoatom is implementing the project in close cooperation with scientific, design and production institutions, which have long-term experience in creation of ships and atomic plants for the marine fleet. Apart from the plant-builder of the floating power block, the following enterprises participate in the construction: Elektrosila power-mechanical engineering enterprise, Izhora works, Aurora Science and Production Association (St. Petersburg), Afrikan-tov Experimental Machinery Construction Design Bureau (Nizhni Novgorod), Kaluga turbine works and dozens of other enterprises.

See: A. Utkin, " Phenomenon of Lomonosov's Personality", Science in Russia, No. 6, 2011--Ed.

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Protective barriers of offshore nuclear power plant which prevent release of radioactivity into the environment.


The Nizhni Novgorod specialists suggested a KLT-40C low-capacity water-cooled power reactor for the main station. It is an upgraded version of reactors operated on board of our icebreakers Taimyr (1989) and Vaigach (1990), light carrier Sevmorput (1988) and submarines. Note that their total work time exceeds 7,000 reactor-years.

The power block will be equipped with modern, so-called "passive" safety systems, which come into operation from self-actuated devices without participating automatics and operating personnel.

The reactor is equipped with a protective covering designed for pressure occurring at depressurization of its primary cooling circuit. A special screen protects the object from a helicopter crash, blast wave and other external actions. It also prevents discharges of radioactive substances, though, as experience of ship reactors handling proves, their level is not high, not more than 35 Cu per year, except that this value "accumulates" mainly in the course of overloading of fuel elements.

It is planned that a low capacity plant will use the so-called "cermet" fuel (microparticles of uranium dioxide in zirconium matrix) possessing essentially higher capacity of uranium than nuclear fuel for atomic icebreakers. The technology of its production allows to create fuel elements with uranium-235 enrichment up to 20 percent, which complies with the IAEA standards for non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. Note that these figures in icebreaker reactors vary from 36 percent to 60 percent, which requires actually special conditions when handling fissile materials and extra measures on their physical protection.

Another advantage of "cermet" lies in the fact that its structure allows to localize 90 percent of fission products in UO2 pellets. Even if for some reason the reactor containment fails, the release of radioactive fission products to a cooling circuit will be several orders lower when using such compositions. While efficiently containing fission products, they serve as an extra security barrier and also ensure continuous operation of the power block without overloading.

All radioactive materials accumulated during operation and refueling of KLT-40C reactor will be reprocessed and stored on board in special tanks and containers. They are compact, small and not too active as the capacity of a power source is low. The annual liquid waste will amount to 8 cu. m and solid waste will make up 2.5 cu. m. In the course of repair (every 12 years at the northern bases in Murmansk, Severodvinsk and Bolshoi Kamen, one of the industrial centers of the Far East) nuclear waste will be unloaded from board. While the station is prepared for further operation, it will be replaced by a backup plant.

Radiation situation at the site will be monitored by the automatic control system. Besides, according to calculations, the action of the station on the environment is limited by the shipboard. As for radiation dose per man a year, it will be ~0.01 mRem in 1-km zone, which is a negligible quantity as compared with the natural radiation background (more than 200 mRem). Therefore, as atomic scientists maintain, such stations can be located easily in close proximity to built-up areas.


The cost of the main block construction increased from 3 bln rubles in 2002 to 14.1 bln rubles in 2010. But according to the data of some mass media today ONTEPS plus its infrastructure is estimated at as almost 27 bln rubles. Approximately 60 percent of total costs fall on the construction of the offshore power block, coastal and hydraulic structures, 27 percent on creation of two reactor plants and the remaining 13 percent on steam-turbine plants and other equipment. Indeed an offshore station is an expensive object. But it depends on a compared object. If it is a ground NPP of similar out-

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put, the cost of an offshore power block will be lower due to application of technologies of modular unit construction. As compared with other ships with a nuclear power plant such as the universal icebreaker of a new generation LK-60Ya* now under construction at the same Baltic works, ONTEPS is a gainer in price (the former will cost at least 37 bln rubles). It must be kept in mind that it concerns only the head power block. According to the customer, the cost price of the second and following plants will decrease by 15-20 percent.


Two years ago it was planned to install the first Russian ONTEPS not later than 2016 in Vilyuchinsk on Kamchatka. There are no energy problems in this region but there is a base of atomic submarines with specialists having work experience in nuclear reactors. Rosenergoatom planned to hire able-bodied specialists discharged from the Navy. Moreover, there investments were already made in the construction of facilities and personnel training.

But in December of 2012 the concern released a statement that the Academician Lomonosov would be located in Pevek. Director General of Rosenergoatom Yevgeny Romanov commented that "the tariff system in the Chukotka Autonomous District made this project more attractive and repayable". He reminded that the Bilibinskaya NPP with a 40 MW reactor plant was located in that region--the first object of the national small-scale atomic power engineering was constructed

*See: M. Malygina, "Multipurpose Icebreaker for Arctic Regions", Science in Russia, No. 3. 2013.--Ed.

in 1974 in permafrost conditions for power supply of the developing mining industry of the Chaun-Bilibin-sky Disctict. Therefore, ONTEPS can substitute the capacity of the ground station, the technological resource of which will be used up in 2019-2020. Besides, there is more positive attitude to atomic energy on the Chukotka as compared with the Kamchatka region, and its residents support construction of the station. In 2010 they spoke in support of its location in their territory at the course of public discussions "Assessments of the Effect of Construction and Operation of ONTEPS on the Environment".

Generally speaking, Rosenergoatom has far-reaching plans, i.e. to create a fleet of seven offshore NPP by 2020. After Pevek, objects of the small-scale power engineering can be constructed on Yamal, Taimyr, in Yakutia and other northern regions, which have acute need in the sources of heat and electric power. However, it is quite possible that it will appear also in the Kamchatka territory in the distant future. According to analysts, the power supply problems can arise there in a decade, and therefore additional power generating capacities will not be superfluous for the industrialized region. On the other hand, Rosenergoatom considers the fears of the opponents regarding location of the mobile NPP in a seismologically unsafe region (there was a heated discussion on Kamchatka especially after the Fukushima accident of 2011) as groundless. One of the ONTEPS dersigners Viktor Ivanyuk said to the Rossiiskaya Gazeta newspaper: "The project is worked out with due account for the seismic zoning plans. According to our calculations the station will not be damaged at the earthquake magnitude of 10 and tsu-

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nami. The project makes provision for 17 m tsunami near the Avachinskaya Bay and 4.2 m wave at a contemplated place of the station's location. The mathematical and physical calculations of the action of waves were carried out in special water reservoirs (Krashenin-nikov Bay models were made at a scale of 1:100, where wave actions of different force were simulated by a special facility)."

Floating stations can be installed not only in coastal strips. The draught--5.6 m--allows to lift the vessel at large distances along rivers. Therefore, Rosenergoatom is studying a possibility to place a station in the settlement of Ust-Kuiga (Republic of Sakha) for power supply of the population and production facilities of the Polyus stock company, which is developing the Kyuchus gold ore deposit. Besides, in close proximity to these places are also other "storerooms" of metals, which are to be developed using atomic energy. The non-ferrous design bureau in Nizhni Novgorod suggested for river versions 6 MW reactor unit ABW (atomic block water) with natural circulation of the heat carrying agent.

In future it is planned to use floating NPP in the course of opening up oil and gas fields on the Yamal Peninsula, on the shelf of Arctic* and Far Eastern seas and also for transportation of hydrocarbons. According to Gazprom estimates, only the Shtokmanovskoye gas-condensate field in the Barents Sea** will need two floating atomic stations and the new oil-fields on Yamal--at least three such plants.

*See: N. Bogdanov, "Russia's Shelf, Its Riches", Science in Russia, No. 4. 2003.--Ed.

**See: Ye. Velikhov et al., "Gas, Oil and Ice". Science in Russia, No. 3, 1994.--Ed.


Floating power units can be in great demand also outside Russia. First of all, we mean arid climate countries. For them, specialists of the Afrikantov Experimental Design Bureau of Mechanical Engineering developed a variant of atomic energy desalination complex, capable of producing not only electric energy but also high-quality potable water out of seawater. Its daily output ranges from 40 to 240 thous. t of the valuable product. It is especially required by inhabitants of the Asia-Pacific Region, Latin America and Middle East. According to world estimates, deficit of fresh water there will increase sixfold by 2025. Such plants have already excited interest in Qatar, Malaysia, China and other southern countries.

Rosenergoatom offers long-term agreements to foreign consumers to sell only electric power, heat and fresh water. In addition, the station to be serviced by a Russian crew on a watch basis will remain Russian property. It is a profitable business for a customer as the latter will get a strategic product without creating its own expensive infrastructure for handling nuclear and radioactive materials. It is also advantageous for a seller as it will observe the non-proliferation regime of double-purpose technologies as after operation of the power block is over it will be returned to Russia together with the spent fuel.

Illustrations from the booklet of Rosenergoatom and the Afrikantov Experimental Design Bureau of Mechanical Engineering


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