Floating nuclear power plant set for first refuelling

13 October 2023

Nuclear fuel has been delivered to Russia's floating nuclear power plant Akademik Lomonosov with the landmark refuelling set to begin before the end of the year.

(Image: TVEL)

The fuel was delivered by TVEL, Rosatom's fuel division, via the Northern Sea Route to the site, in Pevek, in the Chukotka region, in northeast Russia. The fuel was manufactured by TVEL's Elektrostal Machine-Building Plant, which is in the Moscow region.

The Akademik Lomonosov, which supplies heat and power to the town, is based on two KLT-40S reactors generating 35 MWe each, which are similar to those used in a previous generation of nuclear powered icebreakers. The fuel for the second reactor is due to be supplied and loaded during 2024.

TVEL said that unlike land-based large reactors which generally require replacement of a proportion of their fuel rods every 12-18 months "in the case of these reactors, the refuelling takes place once every few years and includes unloading of the entire reactor core and loading of fresh fuel into the reactor". It says this means there can be up to 3.5 years between refuellings.

Akademik Lomonosov, which was put into commercial operation in May 2020, was described at the time as a pilot project and a 'working prototype' for a future fleet of floating nuclear power plants and on-shore installations based on Russian-made small modular reactors intended for deployment in hard-to-reach areas of Russia's North and Far-East, as well as for export. Named after the 18th century Russian scientist Mikhail Lomonosov, it is 144 metres long and 30 metres wide, and has a displacement of 21,000 tonnes.

The town of Pevek has a population of about 4000, while the floating plant could potentially supply electricity to a city of 100,000. Since commissioning it is replacing the Bilibino nuclear power plant as it is retired, having operated since 1974, and the Chaunskaya thermal power plant which had been operating for more than 70 years. It also supplies power more widely in the region, including to mining companies involved in the development of the Baimsk ore zone.

Rosatom is already in the process of constructing four floating power units and is targeting the export market for floating nuclear power plants with capacity of at least 100 MWe and an assigned service life of up to 60 years featuring RITM-200M reactors, derived from those used on Russia's latest nuclear-powered icebreakers.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News