Russia’s Federal Nuclear Energy Agency has made a decision to build a low capacity floating nuclear power plant (FNPP), the first project of its kind in the world.

The plant will be small and will produce roughly 1/150th of the power produced by a standard Russian nuclear power plant. Construction could begin in 2006 if the project finds financing.

The mini-station will be located in the White Sea, off the coast of the town of Severodvinsk (in the Arkhangelsk region in northern Russia). It will be moored near the Sevmash plant, which is the main facility of the State Nuclear Shipbuilding Center. The FNPP will be equipped with two power units using KLT-40S reactors. The plant will meet all of Sevmash’s energy requirements for just 5 or 6 cents per kilowatt. If necessary, the plant will also be able to supply heat and desalinate seawater.

“If conditions are favorable, the floating plant could be operational in four to five years’ time,” said Yevgeny Kuzin, general director of the joint-stock company Malaya Energetika. By “conditions” Kuzin, who is the project leader, means funding. The small nuclear power station will cost about $200,000. Kuzin says that it will be hard to secure the necessary money. Russian businessmen have become used to making quick returns on their investments, and few are prepared to wait for long-term returns. Yet there are still some businessmen who break the mold and are aware of the benefits of taking a longer-term perspective.

And the concept of the FNPP is very promising. Small FNPPs would be a blessing for the Russian regions adjoining the Arctic Ocean. These areas lack centralized energy supplies, and an FNPP would be an independent source of energy. It is specifically this feature of the Russian technological innovation that is attracting attention abroad: Indonesia, Malaysia, and China have all shown interest in the project. The plant off the coast of Severodvinsk will therefore also act as a prototype that can be seen by potential foreign customers.

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