Refuelling is underway at the world's only floating NPP (FNPP), the Akademik Lomonosov, moored at the city of Pevek, in Russia’s Chukotka Autonomous Okrug. The supply of fuel was transported along the Northern Sea Route. The FNPP includes two KLT-40S reactor units. In such reactors, nuclear fuel is not replaced in the same way as in standard NPPs – partial replacement of fuel once every 12-18 months. Instead, once every few years the entire reactor core is replaced with a full load of fresh fuel. The FNPP is operated by PATEC, a special branch of Rosatom’s nuclear utility, Rosenergoatom.
The fresh fuel cassettes were delivered to Pevek by in special shipping containers along the Northern Sea Route in October by Rosatom’s fuel company TVEL and were immediately transferred aboard the FNPP. The manufacturer of nuclear fuel for all Russian nuclear icebreakers, as well as the Akademik Lomonosov, is the Mashinostroitelny Zavod (MSZ - part of TVEL) in Elektrostal, Moscow Region.
The loading of fresh fuel cassettes is being carried out into the reactor on the starboard side of the FNPP. Refuelling of the second reactor is planned for 2024. “When carrying out work to transship the nuclear fuel, all necessary measures were taken to meet radiation safety requirements,” said Alexey Fedotov, chief engineer at PATEC. “Before loading them into the reactor, each of the 121 fuel assemblies passed strict acceptance control. After a thorough check by specialists, all assemblies are sequentially placed in the reactor using automated crane equipment.” The reloading operation is planned to be completed before the end of this year. Maxim Shamambaev, the head of nuclear safety for the FNPP, said the radiation background in the region did not change during the work and remained at the natural background level for Pevek.
The installation of the FNPP in Chukotka aimed to solve two key problems. First it was to replace the retiring capacities of the Bilibino NPP, which began operating in1974, as well as the Chaunskaya thermal power plant, which is already more than 70 years old. Second, it was to supply energy to the main mining enterprises located in western Chukotka - a large ore and metal cluster, including gold mining companies and projects related to the development of the Baimskaya ore zone.
By the end of 2023, power generation to Pevek from the FNPP since it began operation in 2020 will total 200 GWh. The population of Pevek is just over 4,000. However, the plant can potentially provide electricity to a city with a population of up to 100,000.
Image courtesy of Rosatom