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Russia set to decommission the world’s most remote nuclear power plant

Power News - Published on Thu, 14 Feb 2019

Image Source: bellona.org
Russia’s government has approved plans to begin decommissioning what are perhaps the most secluded commercial nuclear reactors in the world, located at the Bilibino nuclear power plant in Chukotka – 5,600 kilometers and 11 time zones to Moscow’s east. The approval represents a major step toward plugging in Russia’s controversial floating nuclear power plant, the Akademik Lomonosov, which was built to replace the electricity supplied by the Bilibino facility.

In technical terms, Russia’s nuclear utility Rosenergoatom asked for and received a license to operate the Bilibino plant’s No 1 reactor without generating electricity for 15 years. According to Russian regulatory procedure, such a license is required before actual decommissioning work can begin.

Bilibino’s No 1 reactor was disconnected from the power grid last March, after which its fuel was removed and placed in storage at the site of the plant. The plant’s remaining three reactors are scheduled for decommissioning by 2012.

That’s where the Akademik Lomonosov comes in. By the end 2019, tugboats will guide the floating plant from Murmansk, were it is being fuels and tests, through the Arctic and to the remote Chukotka port of Pevek, where it will plug into the local grid.

Many environmental organization’s, including Bellona, are not thrilled by this notion. The Akademik Lomosov, as a barge supporting two nuclear power units, be vulnerable to tsunamis and other violent sea rises that could waterlog its reactors. Rosatom, Russia’s state nuclear corporation, has claimed the floating plant is steeled against such calamities, citing that the Akademik Lomonosov’s has 24-hours of backup coolant should its reactor’s have to endure a Fukushima-like inundation.

Rosatom has further argued that the Akademik Lomonosov, and other floating plants it might develop, provide an essential service by bringing carbon-free electricity to faraway settlements and towns that are unreachable by more conventional power sources.

But Bellona said that this remoteness is part of the problem. The Akademik Lomosov’s location in a far-flung port makes removing and storing its spent nuclear fuel complicated, and assures that any response to onboard accidents would be crippled by distance and the harsh Arctic elements of Chukchi Sea.

Bilibino, which Moscow classified as a town only in 1993, originally began as a gold mining outpost in the icy reaches of the East Siberian Sea. Volunteers from the Communist youth league, the Komsomol, began building the plant in 1974 – a mere four years after the Soviet post office began making regular deliveries to the area.

When it was finished in 1976, it became the world’s northernmost nuclear power plant – and certainly the only one operating in an entirely permafrost environment. The port of Pevek, where the Akademik Lomonosov will be moored, is accessible to Bilibino only by a highway built on icepack. Once the ice melts in the summer, so does the road.

Source :

Posted By : Rabi Wangkhem on Thu, 14 Feb 2019
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