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Russia to build floating nuclear power plant
The Associated Press
MOSCOW (March 13, 2001 4:31 p.m. EST) - Russia plans to build a floating nuclear power plant, an Atomic Energy Ministry spokesman said Tuesday.
The announcement is the latest indication the country intends to go ahead with plans for a project it has mentioned repeatedly in the past.
The $109 million plant is to be built in Severodvinsk, a military port on Russia's northern coast 30 miles west of Archangelsk, and will float in the White Sea, said ministry spokesman Yuri Bespalko.
He said the plant would have a generating capacity of 60 megawatts, but did not provide further details.
Russia has long expressed interest in using floating plants to supply electricity to remote northern and eastern regions, where severe weather makes construction on land difficult and expensive.
Bespalko said Tuesday's announcement was a firm commitment and that "this may become a prototype for a series of this type of station."
But Bellona, a Norway-based environmental group that closely monitors Russia's nuclear programs, was skeptical. Igor Kudrik, a researcher in Moscow for Bellona, said he doubted Russia would find the money to build the plant - and that if the plan went ahead it would be risky.
Nuclear experts in the United States said the plan to build floating nuclear plants was feasible, but expressed concern about Russia's ability to build and operate them safely.
"Russia has a problem with construction quality," said Daniel Lochbaum, nuclear safety engineer for the Union of Concerned Scientists in Washington, D.C.
He said the first nuclear reactors were designed in the 1950s for Navy ships and submarines, and that the United States and Russia now have extensive nuclear-powered fleets. He said a floating nuclear plant would differ little from a land-based plant, except that all the systems would have to be smaller.
Of special concern is the containment shell that would hold contaminated water and steam if there was a leak. Other concerns include protecting the floating reactor from violent weather, high seas and collisions, Lochbaum said.
Henry Kelly, president of the Federation of American Scientists in Washington, also pointed to the containment structure as a cause for concern, saying it would be "very tough" to build one sufficiently large and stable on a barge.
"The temptation to cut corners to make the economics work would be huge," he added.
Lochbaum said the concept of a floating nuclear power plant originated in the United States. Westinghouse and other companies designed a prototype in the 1970s that was to be located off Cape May, N.J., but the project was canceled.
Bespalko dismissed safety concerns.
"There are nuclear submarines and icebreakers. The Americans have nuclear aircraft carriers," he said.
Russia now has 10 nuclear plants that produce about 12 percent of the nation's electricity.
-- Rachel Gibson (firstname.lastname@example.org), March 13, 2001
They have so many retired subs, why don't they take a few sub and gut them power plants?
Or are these power plants the reason for those subs being parked?
Of course the next choice would be to give everyone their own personal RPG (Radionucleotide Powered Generator)- These are the puppies in sattelites. These are low power (~<100W) but long life ~100+ years. You take a hunk of 'hot stuff' and surround it by thermocouples and wallah you have a small power source.
Thermocouples are made by simply taking two pieces of wire and twisting the together - a better version is done by fusing them together using a zap of electricity. The output of a TC is small so alot of them are needed. The electrons hop across the 'bi-metal' because of the heat.
-- (email@example.com), March 13, 2001.
PRPG's would be a good use for nuclear waste. Justr dispose of them safely.
-- John Littmann (LITTMANNJOHNTL@AOL.COM), March 14, 2001.