Russians Building Floating Nuclear Plants to Aid Arctic Drilling

The BBC has a fascinating story about the construction of floating nuclear power plants for the Russian arctic. Built on a dock, the ships could motor up to the Arctic and stay there for more than a decade providing light, heat and power. Russia has moved aggressively to secure possession of areas of the Arctic with good potential for oil and gas drilling.

It's worth noting that floating nuclear power plants were suggested in the United States during the mid-1970s. The response then, according to this AP report, was roughly equivalent to most people's response now.

"The very idea of putting a nuclear power plant on a huge barge, floating it off three miles off a crowded resort beach and piping its power ashore at 345,000 volts through underwater cables made some people nervous," the AP wrote. "To others, it's the greatest idea since ... well, since the nuclear power plant."

The U.S. plant would have been located off the jersey shore near Atlantic City, as seen in this drawing from the January 23, 1977, edition of the Sarasota Herald.

Floating nuclear power plant.jpg

The floating plant plan died in late 1978 when the New Jersey utility pushing the reactors canceled its order with Westinghouse.

The idea of offshore nuclear reactors went dormant for 25 years, when Russian authorities picked up the idea for use in the Arctic.

Here are the details on the new Russian plan:

"These [floating nuclear power stations] have very good potential, creating the conditions for exploring the Arctic shelf and setting up drilling platforms to extract oil and gas," says Sergey Zavyalov, deputy director of the operating company, Rosenergoatom. "Work in the Arctic is very complicated and dangerous and we should ensure there's a reliable energy supply."

He says each power station, costing $400m, can supply electricity and heating for communities of up to 45,000 people and can stay on location for 12 years before needing to be serviced back in St Petersburg. And while initially they will be positioned next to Arctic bases along the North coast, there are plans for floating nuclear power stations to be taken out to sea near large gas rigs.

Read the full story at the BBC.

Presented by

How to Build a Tornado

A Canadian inventor believes his tornado machine could solve the world's energy crisis. The only problem? He has to prove it works.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus


How to Build a Tornado

A Canadian inventor believes his tornado machine could solve the world's energy crisis.


A New York City Minute, Frozen in Time

This short film takes you on a whirling tour of the Big Apple


What Happened to the Milky Way?

Light pollution has taken away our ability to see the stars. Can we save the night sky?


The Faces of #BlackLivesMatter

Scenes from a recent protest in New York City


Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Life

The Supreme Court justice talks gender equality and marriage.


The Pentagon's $1.5 Trillion Mistake

The F-35 fighter jet was supposed to do everything. Instead, it can barely do anything.

More in Technology

Just In