Russia Launches Floating Nuclear Power Plant

The Akademik Lomonosov generates 70 megawatts of electricity, and plenty of concern

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Russian nuclear engineering group Rosatom launched the world's first floating nuclear power plant Wednesday, according to The Voice of Russia. Photos show the Akademik Lomonosov, a 21,500-ton barge equipped with twin 35-megawatt light-water reactors, slipping into the water at St. Petersburg's Baltic Shipyard.

The Akademik Lomonosov represents a particularly flexible example of the small modular reactor (SMR) nuclear power plants that are under development worldwide. SMRs provide a 'scale of multiples' that could lower the cost of financing nuclear energy. But their flexibility also brings a phalanx of new risk considerations to the nuclear bargain -- particularly one like this that's designed to change locales. No surprise then that Greenpeace Russia has dubbed the Akademik Lomonosov the world’s most dangerous nuclear project in a decade.

Nuclear engineering group Rosatom anticipates that within two years the Akademik Lomonosov will be operating in its first port of call: an Arctic oil and gas operation. In addition to remote locations, Rosatom sees a good fit for floating SMRs in developing countries, where the SMR offers a right-sized solution for power grids that are growing fast but also comparatively weak and cash-poor.

Russia's minister for nuclear energy Sergei Kiriyenko claimed to have "numerous orders" for the floating power plants during Wednesday's champagne-smashing event, according to The Voice of Russia.

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