Dawn of the Floating NPP


The world’s first floating nuclear power plant (FNPP) has just been launched from the Baltiysky Zavod in Saint-Petersburg. It will be towed for fueling in Murmansk, and then go on to provide power to the Arctic town of Bilibino in the Russian Far East, where the local NPP is due for decommissioning in 2019.

Autistic screeching from atomophobes regardless, there’s plenty of reasons why this is a very competitive idea.

  1. It’s surprisingly cheap: The Akademik Lomonosov, the first FNPP of its kind, costs only $250 million, and it should get even cheaper. Development costs are low – ultimately, it’s just a primitive barge with a reactor mounted on it, of the sort that are already used by Rosatom’s nuclear icebreaker fleet, as well as storage compartments for new and used fuel. Rosatom is one of Russia’s more efficient state-owned behemoths, so I don’t see all the money disappearing down a rathole (as would be the case if say Sechin was in charge).

  2. Not only can it to what any normal NPP can – the Akademik Lomonosov can provide 70MW of electricity and 300MW of heat, and these figures can be increased with bigger reactors – but it is also a mobile source of power. Potentially, it can provide heat, electricity, and desalination services to just about any coastal location on the planet. It only needs a crew of 69, needs to be refueled just once every 12 years, and will have a service life of 50 years.

Obvious uses would be to provide power to remote Arctic civilian and military installations (Russia has started to actively lock down the area in the past decade – a wise if belated decision, in light of the accelerating melting of the Arctic), and to help with Arctic oil & gas extraction (Gazprom has already expressed an interest in acquiring several units).

One can also think of many other uses for it. China, which has also expressed an interest in acquiring some units – as well as building its own – could use it to power its artificial islands in the South China Sea. Another application could be providing quick relief in disaster zones; imagine if a floating NPP could have been close at hand after the storm that hit Puerto Rico and took out its electricity grid for almost half a year.

  1. It will actually be even safer than conventional NPPs (which are already the world’s safest energy source by far).

The irony in Greenpeace calling it a “Chernobyl on ice” is that if Chernobyl really had been on ice, it would never have had a meltdown, being located right above an effectively infinite heat sink – the ocean. It would also be invulnerable to earthquakes and – if sufficiently far offshore, in deep water – to tsunamis as well. Not that either are an issue in the Arctic.

There’s no limits to the imagination on what we can do when we finally round up the atomophobes and send them down to the uranium mines.

We could build flying NPPs, to extend the range of mobile nuclear power deep inland. The Antonov-225 can carry up to 250 tons of cargo, which is more than enough for a small reactor plus nuclear storage.

In the long-term, as I have argued, we will need Orion Drives to cheaply launch the large amounts of matter into space, which is a sine qua non of serious space colonization. We will need nuclear reactors to power the lunar and Mars colonies.



  1. reiner Tor says

    Or providing the Crimea with electricity, just in case it was annexed and Ukraine cut the electricity supply.

  2. reiner Tor says

    It only needs a crew of 69, needs to be refueled just once every 12 years, and will have a service life of 50 years.

    The issue is what will happen to the partially used fuel rods after decommissioning? They will be mostly intact with only two years worth being used (the fourth refueling being at the 48 year mark), with another ten years to go. But the FNPP will have to be decommissioned…

    These are difficult problems. I can find an easy solution if I’m paid a few billions.

  3. If you are far enough off shore, don’t you have to worry about super-waves? Those are waves that built on each other until they can be 100 ft tall.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think it is a very cool idea. I wonder how practical it would be to use to produce rocket fuel.

    Point of curiosity: anyone know if Russians recycle spent nuclear fuel like the French do?

  4. Thorfinnsson says

    Bravo for Russia, and in particular the Russian elite for ignoring the atomophobia of Russia’s commoners. These floating reactors aren’t limited just to ocean use.

    This thing looks seriously cool too, like something out of the Fallout series.



    Next logical step is to scale this down to boxcar size, allowing reactors to be railed wherever they are needed. A barge reactor for use in inland waterways would also be excellent.


    Small reactors would be ideal for providing district heating in cities. China is developing small pool-type reactors for district heating: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-nuclear-heating/china-looks-to-nuclear-option-to-ease-winter-heating-woes-idUSKBN1E404J

    Other possible uses for small reactors include electricity for remote settlements and industrial heat for industries such as refining, cement, and metallurgy.

    In theory we can completely eliminate fossil fuels from all industrial production other than chemicals and sponge iron.

    The real question is what is the smallest (both volume and mass) viable passively safe nuclear reactor? Getting nuclear power into transportation is a real game changer.

    We can already nuclearize all global shipping, which also can economically increase the speed of oceanic shipping. Nuclear locomotives can replace diesel ones. But can we make nuclear trucks, aircraft, tractors, and heavy equipment?

    Nuclear cars would be very nice as well but seems like battery-electric vehicles are a genuinely better solution for most.

    Military logistics would also be revolutionized by complete nuclearization. Half of the logistics tail eliminated at a stroke.

  5. Thorfinnsson says

    No, this is not a difficult problem. Nuclear waste is not a big deal. It’s just something atomophobes panic about because they’re cowards.

    Decommissioning is also not a big deal. Just tow it to the coast of some pathetic shithole like Cameroon and beach it.

  6. reiner Tor says

    You didn’t understand the problem.

    It needs refueling every 12 years. It also has a lifespan of 50 years. So the last refueling happens at the 48 year mark. Then two years later, it’s decommissioned. So the last fuel rod will only be 1/6th used up. :(((

  7. Someone who claims that nuclear war is no big deal is not likely to be believed when he says that anything else nuclear is safe. Which is unfortunate, because apart from the flight of fancy at the end, you are quite right in this case.

  8. Felix Keverich says

    That probably isn’t going to happen. US economic sanctions is something that Rosatom would be keen to avoid.

  9. I question the claim that it is only safer, just because it is near water. So are nuclear aircraft carriers, submarines, and so on, which generate power on vastly less scale, but are nonetheless still possible to have accidents with.

    Rescue operation would be more difficult to reach, more difficult to connect to backup power supply for pumps, etc, and more chance of an accident due to all kinds of issues of not being tethered to land.

    On the other hand, the melt-down itself, if it would ever occur, could be made less catastrophic, by finally sinking it. And it would likely be further away from a populated zones, than a land based power plant, and therefore the impact of a catastrophe could be less.

    So this is a minimax strategy.

  10. which generate power on vastly less scale, but are nonetheless still possible to have accidents with.

    Oops that was false. These will be small reactors.

  11. Definitely not a Chernobyl-on-Ice as these are PWRs, not RBMKs (which would be impractically large for floating platforms, and no-one is retarded enough to build those anyway)

  12. Point of curiosity: anyone know if Russians recycle spent nuclear fuel like the French do?

    Well, they do have sodium-cooled Pu breeder reactors, similar to the French Superphénix, which was switched off before it could be put in production due to safety concerns, so I would say yes. How much they recycle I don’t know.

  13. Where did I say that nuclear war is no big deal?

    I said that it won’t lead to human extinction, nor even the end of industrial civilization. People who say otherwise are simply uninformed and wrong. I also said that it is probable that a solid majority of people in the world as a whole, and even the warring countries themselves, will survive (unless the most histrionic projections of nuclear winter or EMP destructiveness are correct). Still, having 10%-20% of your population die is quite bad, and will indeed be a “big deal.”

  14. Btw, why they paint the nucleo-platform in the livery of the Luxembourgish Public Railroad Company (CFL)?


  15. you are mistaken.

    when you add on the lethal post-war socioeconomic effects of a nuclear war between ZOG-ruled ‘Murka and Russia, both nations’ White populations (and that of Europe)

    will be mostly dead. That’s why

    the ZOG keeps tightening the screws on Russia. The Jews

    calculate that Israhell is safely south of the main blast, radiation, and chaos zone.

  16. Thorfinnsson says

    Based on the history of Gen I and II nuclear reactors, I am certain they’ll be able to extend the lifespan to 60 years.

    Alternatively it can be taken out of service after 48 years.

    Or perhaps the one-third used fuel rods can be used in another reactor.

    Or just place the fuel rods in storage.


  17. It seems a simple enough idea, so this begs the question why nobody did this before?

  18. lethal post-war socioeconomic effects of a nuclear

    What would happened if all power plants and refineries were destroyed in the US with population intact. How many people would be alive one years later?

    Expert: 90% of U.S. Population Could Die if a Pulse Event Hits the Power Grid

    No question that 10-20% A. Karlin’s number is unrealistic.

  19. Thorfinnsson says


    I think Taleb’s term “IYI” is more appropriate.

  20. The nuclear power plant closest to me used to have 2 containment domes, when I was a boy. One was just a rusting hulk because there had been protests and legal trouble, and they had never built the 2nd reactor. Eventually they tore it down, leaving only the first one intact.

  21. I wonder how much a submarine version would cost. Maybe you’d want something which could submerge in a big storm. Would be good to use with sea-launched rockets, splitting the H2O.

  22. He was the only one who testified. Former director of CIA

    Woolsley responded, “It’s briefly dealt with in the commission report of [2008]. There are essentially two estimates on how many people would die from hunger, from starvation, from lack of water, and from social disruption. One estimate is that within a year or so, two-thirds of the United States population would die. The other estimate is that within a year or so, 90% of the U.S. population would die. We’re talking about total devastation. We’re not talking about just a regular catastrophe.”

    Certainly CIA, DOD and DOE and various think tanks have done many studies to which Woolsley must have had access. If what he said was not supported by these studies then he must have lied for who knows what reason. However to me what he said sound reasonable. Try to imagine where people living in cities would get food from in 1st, 2nd, 3rd,… month after the electric power is lost in the whole country. Military may bring in some but once food reserve are depleted there will be no food to bring as there will be no food production to speak of.

  23. I was in NYC during the Northeast blackout of 2003 which was caused by a minor glitch. It was then I realized that if them terrorist who hate America were any smart they would have blown up random pylons on major electric power traction lines and we would be really hurting. Apparently them terrorist prefer to be on TV and do some pointless but spectacular events that are visual satisfying like flying planes into buildings. One could hurt this country much more with low profile and low key attack on power lines.

  24. Anonymous lurker says

    Swedish Russia pundits wrote extensively about this last year. One of the most prominent ones, Patrik Oksanen even went as far as to suggest that the whole idea with this is to set up a false flag incident in the Baltic, where the Russians would sink the Lomonosov, blame Sweden for it and then use that as a pretext to invade Gotland. I’m not joking. If one were to trust Swedish pundits on the Russia and defense beat, all they ever think about in the Kremlin is how to invade Gotland.

    Others pundits in the major newspapers were of the “Chernobyl” variety, less tin-foily and more generally ignorant.

    It’s funny, this barge isn’t even loaded with any nuclear materials, yet there is so much alarmist bullshit about it. When nuclear vessels that actually are “hot” have travelled the same route, nobody has said a word about it. There have been several atomic icebreakers that were fitted with their reactors in St. Petersburg, before sailing the same route to Atomflot’s HQ in Murmansk, for instance. Not to mention the occasional visit by nuclear-powered naval vessels, such as Pyotr Velikiy (several times, even in the 1990s, and most recently last year at the Navy Parade).

    Other alarmist bullshit they’ve shat out concerns the sensitive arctic and how it’s a terrible idea to have anything nuclear in that region. Seemingly oblivious to the fact that the ever-expanding arctic shipping up there relies on Atomflot’s famous nuclear icebreakers (and three brand new ones are under construction now), that several SSNs and SSBNs operate in those waters 24/7, and that as Karlin has noted – where the Lomonosov is heading there is already an NPP in operation (Bilibino) and that old plant is far more of an environmental hazard than the floating one slated to replace it, so this endeavour should be welcomed if anything.

  25. For people who believe many inhabitants of a participant country would survive a full-scale nuclear war, yes.

  26. If one were to trust Swedish pundits on the Russia and defense beat, all they ever think about in the Kremlin is how to invade Gotland.

    That’s why Gotland is not part of North Stream II: http://themess.net/forum/news-and-current-events/215420-gotland-makes-u-turn-on-leasing-port-to-russians

    Gotland said on Wednesday that it had reconsidered a plan to lease a port to Russian gas pipeline project Nord Stream 2, after the Swedish government expressed disapproval.
    Majority Russian-owned Nord Stream is attempting to rent a port in Slite, Gotland, and a harbour in Karlshamn, Blekinge, to aid the construction of its new Baltic Sea gas pipeline.

    While I’m not surprised, I quite honestly don’t get what the issue is? It’s not Russians who are building it or will use said harbors for storing piping, it’s all done by N.V. Nederlandse Gasunie based in Holland, and the harbor staff would have been locally hired, ie Swedish in these two cases.

    A month later…

    “According to initial information, the government doesn’t think that this can be classed as a security risk anymore. This because of the fact that the information they used prior lacked important details, such as the fact that Karlshalm already handles a significant amount of Russian trade”

    Gotland already made their decision, they folded right at the very first sign of friction, without any further inquiries. Karlshamn’s municipal council however decided to conduct a factual assessment and once that was done and presented, the government was like “yeah, OK you got us, we were bullshitting all along.”

  27. Other alarmist bullshit they’ve shat out concerns the sensitive arctic and how it’s a terrible idea to have anything nuclear in that region. …. where the Lomonosov is heading there is already an NPP in operation (Bilibino) and that old plant is far more of an environmental hazard than the floating one slated to replace it, so this endeavour should be welcomed if anything.

    For the hardcore defenders of wildlife, nuclear power plants needs to be an absolute blessing. Around Chernobyl is now a unique wildlife reserve (2,600 km2 – the size of Luxembourg) with wild horses, bison and other prosperous wildlife.