Though nuclear power has been around for decades, its role in the global energy landscape has been slow to develop. The alternative energy source has the potential to generate substantial power and is relatively clean and cheap to produce, but nuclear’s potential hazards has many unwilling to adopt the power source. There have been multiple examples of just how deadly a nuclear crisis could be – Chernobyl being the most disastrous and devastating [for more commodity news and analysis subscribe to our free newsletter].
One country, however, that has already had to deal with the aftermath of a nuclear crisis is now drawing plans to build the world’s first floating nuclear power plant. By 2016, Russia will be home to what many think may be the next Chernobyl.
The Deadly Side of Nuclear
In 1989, the small working-class town of Pripyat, located near Ukraine’s Northern border, took a devastating blow after an explosion occurred at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. The accident released massive amounts of radioactive particles into the atmosphere. Radiation then spread throughout the neighboring regions and into parts of Belarus and Russia; and to this day many suffer from the deadly side effects brought on by the radiation [see A Deeper Look At Russia's Commodity Industry].
But while many activists and environmental groups have taken steps to increase nuclear power plants’ safety – there are some factors that essentially are too difficult to control. Take Fukushima for example – a Japanese nuclear power plant that suffered major damage from a 9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami.
Russia, however, is obviously willing to take the risk as they believe their new power plant will have the ability to provide energy to hard-to-reach large industrial enterprises, port cities and offshore gas and oil-extracting platforms.
The Next Biggest Thing Or A Disaster Waiting To Happen?
According to Aleksandr Voznesenkii, director of Russia’s largest shipbuilding complex Baltiysky Zavod, the massive project should be fully operational by 2016. Russia’s hope is that the nuclear-power vessel will be able to provide power to remote regions of the country’s high north and Far East, whose local economies currently suffer from a lack of energy availability.
The floating power-generating unit, the Akademik Lomonosov, was designed using technology based on the USSR’s construction of nuclear-power icebreakers. This technology has apparently proved itself for over 50 years of successful operation in extreme Arctic conditions [see What Obama's Energy Plan Means For Commodities Investors].
The 21,000 ton vessel will feature two modified KLT-40 naval propulsion reactors, which have the ability to generate up to 70 megawatts of electricity or 300 megawatts of heat – enough to heat a city of 200,000 people. In addition, each vessel can be modified as a desalination plant, which would be able to produce 240,000 cubic meters of fresh water on a daily basis.
In regards to safety, the Baltiysky Zavod has stressed that these vessels are designed to withstand “all” possible threats and potential environmental crisis and that they are absolutely invulnerable to tsunamis or other natural disasters. Only time will tell whether or not the Akademik Lomonosov will be the next big thing in nuclear and alternative energy or if the project carries more danger than meets the eye.
Disclosure: No positions at time of writing.