Russia's First Floating Nuclear Plant Seized by Court Order

Seized by the Saint Petersburg courts: one floating nuclear power plant, almost-finished, never used.

Russia's first nuclear barge was seized before it had a chance to split its first atom. But the floating power station, the Akademik Lomonosov, hasn't fallen victim to safety concerns following the nuclear disaster in Japan—rather, it's just an asset to be argued over in bankruptcy proceedings.

World Nuclear News reports on the fairly messy financial situation, but the gist is this: The Baltiysky Zavod shipyard, which is building the nuclear barge, is controlled by larger companies that are now involved bankruptcy proceedings. That means the shipyard's assets are on the table. The Moscow Times reports that the shipyard also faces litigation from numerous creditors of its own. So a division of the state nuclear corporation Rosatom asked the court of arbitration to impound the nuclear barge to protect its investment in the 9.8 billion ruble (US $340 million) project.

Russia has been dreaming big about the floating nuclear industry: In 2009, Rosatom announced plans to send a fleet of floating nuclear power stations to the Arctic, where they could power deep-sea drilling for oil and gas. But the delays and difficulties encountered by the Akademik Lomonosov could dim enthusiasm for the larger project.

The Akademik Lomonosov is already behind schedule. Rosatom switched contractors and shipyards in 2009 (and gave up on its original 2010 commissioning date). But World Nuclear News reports that the pace of construction picked up once the Baltiysky Zavod shipyard got the contract:

Construction of the plant has since progressed, with the turbo-generators recently being installed. The two 35 MW KLT-40S nuclear reactors - similar to those used in Russia's nuclear-powered ice breakers - have already been assembled and delivered to the shipyard ready for installation.

The nuclear barge is intended to supply power to coastal towns in the far east region of Kamchatka. And according to the Moscow Times, Rosatom doesn't think the court seizure is a big deal

"Work is continuing as normal, and I think it should be commissioned on schedule by 2012," a Rosatom spokesman said by telephone Friday.

PHOTO: ALEXANDER DEMIANCHUK / REUTERS

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