While hundreds of nuclear reactors have been employed in the military navies of China, France, Russia, the UK and USA for decades, only Russia has maintained a fleet of civil nuclear ships: the icebreakers that work the country’s Arctic ports and one freighter. Other countries’ forays into civil marine nuclear power – the NS Savannah, the Otto Hahn and the Mutsu – did not continue in the long term due to various social, economic or technical factors.
Russia went on to expand its leadership in this area with the adaptation of the KLT-40S small reactor for installation in pairs on a barge. This vessel could be docked in remote places to supply power and heat either to the local population or new industry. The first such floating nuclear power plant, the Akademic Lomonosov, is at an advanced stage of construction at the Baltiysky Zavod shipyard. The barge is completed and afloat, with main power systems already fitted. Eventually it will be maneuvered along rivers and canals to the Arctic sea and towed to the town of Vilyuchinsk on the Pacific coast of Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia’s far east. Another is planned for Pevek, on the Arctic coast.
Based on the status of the Akademik Lomonosov, Rosenergoatom said it had at its disposal ‘a full package of design documents to create a reference floating nuclear power plant for China’.
China has given a set of proposals to Russia for consideration as dialogue continues ahead of the next formal meeting in May 2012. Separately the countries are discussing cooperation for space nuclear power systems, and from mid-2012 Russia will supply radioisotope thermal generators to the Chinese space program.
In more conventional nuclear power, Russia has already built the two-unit Tianwan nuclear power plant in Jiangsu province, where two more are expected to be fully contracted soon. OKBM led the construction of the 65 MWt China Experimental Fast Reactor near Beijing, and a 1000 MWe power-generating version is slated to begin construction in 2017 known as the China Demonstration Fast Reactor. Before that, however, could come two BN-800 fast-reactor units also by OKBM at Sanming, on which construction could start in 2013.