Nuclear energy: Solutions for the remote Arctic regions
Published: 21 Nov 2017 By Matt Cook
Rosatom’s design facilities have proposed new nuclear technologies that have the potential to offer solutions to the energy challenges facing the Arctic regions. They are proposing a series of mini nuclear power plans to meet the energy requirements in the isolated energy systems of the northern regions such as Chukotka, Magadan, and Yakutia.
Providing energy for the Russian northern region
Engineers are proposing the development of a series of small nuclear power plants with a low capacity of approximately 9 MW. The power plant design options are variable, including fixed, floating, or even underwater, providing options for installation in a range of environments.
Small capacity nuclear energy facilities are very appropriate for remoter regions.
One major advantage of these smaller structures is the mobility. Once a site has been developed, the equipment can be relocated to an alternative location. Small-scale nuclear power plants are a very good solution for isolated energy systems. In many remote regions, energy is generated at diesel and coal plants, which use expensive fuel, transported from mainland areas.
Remote energy systems are still heavily reliant on fuel delivery during the summer months. For example in the region of Yakutia, where the riverbed is particularly shallow, fuel was delivered across the Arctic rivers, along with the northern sea route, and by railroads. The main expense for this energy in these regions is the transportation costs. Small-scale nuclear facilities could heavily reduce the dependence of regions such as Yakutia on bringing in fuel from mainland areas.
The main challenge that tends to be associated with nuclear development is the cost. A small-scale system is costly, particularly in low-density regions where cost per capita would work out even higher. However, the long-term benefits of small-scale nuclear plants would eventually outweigh the initial development and maintenance costs incurred. Further research is being carried out to explore project feasibility and profits from these facilities.
Nuclear designers believe the initial large investment would payback with an effective and localized energy system. Looking at the entire life cycle, these facilities will prove to be economically beneficial.
Nuclear designers also point to the fragility of the Arctic environment and how small-scale nuclear plants are optimal for this region. Experts are in agreement that these plants do not cause high ecology risks. In comparison to coal, natural gas, and oil, the small-scale nuclear plants for not emit harmful carbon emissions. Nuclear developers explain that the reactors produce heat energy, but the blocks require minimal water for cooling and the expenses for construction and servicing are relatively low.
A further challenge is providing sufficient expertise to service and maintain nuclear power plants in remote regions. Despite the smaller scale, a similar number of nuclear professionals would be required to service and maintain the facility. It, therefore, would be necessary to invite nuclear specialists from other regions to work specifically on remote sites and provide additional training to local specialists.
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