07MOSCOW2040, RUSSIA EDGES FORWARD ON FLOATING NUCLEAR POWER

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
07MOSCOW2040 2007-05-04 08:26 2011-08-30 01:44 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO5307
OO RUEHHM RUEHLN RUEHMA RUEHPB RUEHPOD
DE RUEHMO #2040/01 1240826
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 040826Z MAY 07
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 9901
INFO RUEHUNV/USMISSION UNVIE VIENNA PRIORITY 0476
RHEBAAA/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEHZN/EST COLLECTIVE
RUEHVK/AMCONSUL VLADIVOSTOK 2088
RUEHYG/AMCONSUL YEKATERINBURG 2408

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 MOSCOW 002040 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPARTMENT ALSO FOR EUR/RUS AND ISN 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: ENRG KNNP TRGY RS
SUBJECT: RUSSIA EDGES FORWARD ON FLOATING NUCLEAR POWER 
 
REF: A. MOSCOW 1001 
     B. MOSCOW 1342 
     C. MOSCOW 1704 
 
MOSCOW 00002040  001.2 OF 004 
 
 
SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED.  PLEASE PROTECT ACCORDINGLY.  NOT FOR 
INTERNET DISTRIBUTION. 
 
1.  (U) This is a joint cable by Embassy Moscow and ConGen St. 
Petersburg. 
 
2. (SBU) SUMMARY.  Thirty years after the United States 
decommissioned the Sturgis, the first and only U.S.-built floating 
nuclear power plant (FNPP), Russia has officially embarked on 
construction of its first FNPP.  Officials are publicly planning for 
six additional plants to be stationed in remote regions of the 
Russian Federation if this first one becomes operational as planned 
in 2010.  Despite strong criticism of the FNPPs as environmentally 
unsafe and easy terrorist targets and despite long-term funding 
questions, at least one FNPP could soon be a reality in Russia. 
Others may be marketed abroad if regulatory and legal issues can be 
overcome.  Russia has suggested FNPPs as an area for cooperation 
under the aegis of the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP). 
END SUMMARY 
 
------------------------------- 
RUSSIA COMMITS TO FLOATING NPPS 
------------------------------- 
 
3. (U) Russia has floated the idea of building FNPPs several times 
since the fall of the Soviet Union, but only in the past few weeks 
has the idea advanced from distant dream to the reality of 
construction plans, budgets, and schedules.  The ceremonial start 
for construction of Russia's first FNPP, christened the Lomonosov 
after a famed Russian scientist, took place on April 15 at the 
Sevmash factory in Severodvinsk, near Arkhangelsk.  Rosatom director 
Sergey Kiriyenko and First Deputy Premier Sergey Ivanov were both in 
attendance, a high level presence that shows the seriousness with 
which Russia now treats the nuclear industry in general and, 
specifically, FNPPs. 
 
4. (U) Plans call for the Lomonosov to come on-line in 2010. 
Equipped with two KLT-40S reactors of the type used in Russia's 
nuclear icebreaker fleet, the Lomonosov will have a generating 
capacity of 77 megawatts (MW) and will be used to provide electrical 
power to the Sevmash factory that is giving it birth.  FNPPs are 
intended to fill a need for low and medium capacity energy 
production to supply electricity to isolated population centers. 
Following the April 15 ceremony, Kiriyenko told the press, "Today we 
are signing an agreement for the construction of six floating 
nuclear power plants."  Although Russia intends to build the first 
FNPPs for domestic needs, Kiriyenko was quick to point out that "the 
demand for them exists not only in Russia but also in the Asia and 
Pacific region where they can be used for water desalinization." 
 
--------------------------- 
NOT A CRAZY IDEA AFTER ALL? 
--------------------------- 
 
5. (U) Russia's FNPP plans have raised numerous concerns related to 
safety, non-proliferation, terrorism, and the environment.  At its 
basis, however, the idea of using a ship or barge as a power 
generator is not new.  The U.S. military used several oil-fired 
power barges during World War II and the Korean War to supplement or 
replace land-based facilities.  These barges provided up to 30MW of 
emergency power.  The need to refuel these barges with oil 
transported, usually, by tanker limited their utility to temporary, 
emergency use.  In contrast, an FNPP can operate for long periods of 
time without refueling. 
 
6. (U) It will come as a surprise to all but a small group of 
historians and engineers to learn that the world's first FNPP was 
built in the United States over forty years ago.  In January 1963 
the Nuclear Power Program run by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers 
began work on the Sturgis, a World War II Liberty ship hull that was 
modified to accept a pressurized water reactor.  Designated the 
MH-1A, the Sturgis provided up to 45MW to the Panama Canal Zone 
electrical grid from 1968 to 1975.  The Sturgis replaced the output 
of a hydroelectric plant, allowing water that would have been used 
to generate electricity to fill canal locks instead.  Due to this 
savings, the Sturgis is credited as having allowed 2500 more ships 
per year to pass through the canal than would have been possible 
otherwise.  In its day, the Sturgis appears to have provoked little 
if any criticism related to security, non-proliferation, or the 
environment. 
 
7. (U) The Sturgis was decommissioned in 1975 when a relatively 
 
MOSCOW 00002040  002.2 OF 004 
 
 
minor part needed replacement.  A one-of-a kind machine, the MH-1A 
used no off-the-shelf parts and was expensive to maintain.  Had the 
Sturgis been the first of many U.S.-built FNPPs rather than a 
one-of-a-kind prototype, the cost of maintenance undoubtedly would 
ha
ve been lower. 
 
8. (U) Although the Sturgis did not lead to further FNPP 
development, some U.S. military strategists now advocate FNPPs to 
provide electricity and, through desalinization, fresh water to 
far-off theaters of battle. 
 
--------------------------------------------- -------- 
DESIGN AND OPERATIONAL PLANS FOR RUSSIA'S FIRST FNPPs 
--------------------------------------------- -------- 
 
9. (U) Rosenergoatom, the concern that builds and operates Russia's 
land-based NPPs, also will be the operating organization for 
Russia's FNPPs.  Sevmash, the same enterprise that builds nuclear 
submarines, will do the actual building.  In a meeting at Rosatom, 
Feliks Lisitsa, the deputy director in Rosenergoatom's directorate 
for FNPP construction, gave us details on the FNPP design and future 
plans. 
 
10. (U) Russia's first FNPPs will be based around two KLT-40S 
reactors and two TK 35/38-3.4 turbo generators.  The reactor vessel 
for the Lomonosov is already being built at the Izora plant, work on 
the turbines is underway at the Kaluga turbine plant, and the steam 
generators are being built at the Baltiiskiy shipbuilding factory. 
These are the same facilities that build equipment for Russia's 
nuclear submarines and icebreakers. 
 
11. (U) According to Lisitsa, the KLT-40S is in compliance with all 
Russian safety regulations.  Furthermore, Lisitsa claimed, when the 
service lives of all KLT-40S reactors are added together, they 
account for 7000 years of accident free service. (COMMENT:  Reactors 
on Soviet submarines and icebreakers experienced several severe 
accidents, particularly in the early years of nuclear propulsion. 
END COMMENT)  Moreover, Lisitsa continued, the KLT-40S has been 
recommended by IAEA specialists as one of the most ecologically safe 
reactors available for civilian energy applications.  Without 
offering details, Lisitsa told us that safety features built into 
Rosenergoatom's FNPP design effectively eliminates any possibility 
of negative environmental impact.  The design was approved by a 
government ecological review panel in 2002, after which 
Rostekhnadzor, the Russian regulatory authority, issued a license 
authorizing construction. 
 
12. (U) The uranium fuel used for the KLT-40S is enriched only to 
the 15.5 percent level.  Although higher than the fuel enrichment 
for land-based NPPs, this is still well below the 20 percent level 
that is commonly accepted as the dividing line between low and high 
enriched uranium. 
 
13. (U) Russia's first FNPPs will measure 140m long by 30m wide, and 
its crew will be made up of 69 operators and support personnel. 
Lisitsa told us that it will take five years and six billion rubles 
(about $231 million) to build a single FNPP.  Although the Lomonosov 
is being built as a single project, subsequent FNPPs will be built 
in parallel, thereby allowing savings on construction costs.  The 
Lomonosov will remain in Severodvinsk to supply electricity to 
Sevmash, but subsequent FNPPs will be towed slowly to their 
operational locations, arriving there in six months to a year. 
 
14. (U) According to Lisitsa, Russia's first FNPPs will have a 
36-year lifetime broken into three cycles of twelve years each. 
Refueling will take place between cycles.  Spent nuclear fuel (SNF) 
will be stored temporarily in on-board pools of water much in the 
same way as is done for nuclear icebreakers.  Tailings will also be 
stored on-board.  When an FNPP is taken out of service, its SNF will 
be transported back to long-term storage facilities at the 
Zvezdochka shipyard in Severodvinsk or at the Zvezda facility in 
Russia's Far East.  Troops of the Ministry of Internal Affairs will 
be charged with the physical protection of FNPPs during their 
operational lifetimes. 
 
------------ 
FUTURE PLANS 
------------ 
 
15. (U) After the Lomonosov, Rosenergoatom plans to build FNPPs for 
use in Pevek (Chukotka Autonomous Region) and Vilyuchinsk (Kamchatka 
Peninsula).  In the future Rosenergoatom plans to diversify its 
designs to manufacture FNPPs that will produce from 1.5MW to 300MW 
of electrical power to meet specific application needs. 
 
16. (U) Gazprom has expressed interest in using FNPPs to power 
 
MOSCOW 00002040  003.2 OF 004 
 
 
distant gas extraction facilities.  At present these facilities are 
forced to use some of the natural gas they extract as fuel for 
conventional plants that generate the electricity used to run the 
extraction facilities. 
 
17. (U) Rosenergoatom also hopes to adapt FNPPs for desalinization, 
projecting that an FNPP equipped with KLT-40S reactors will provide 
up to 240,000 cubic meters of fresh water per day.  Rosenergoatom 
projects that the world's fresh water deficit, currently estimated 
at 230 billion cubic meters/year, will grow to 1.3-2 trillion cubic 
meters/year ar by 2025.  In dollar terms, Rosenergoatom is banking 
that market demand for fresh water will amount to $12 billion/year 
by 2015.  Up to 70 percent of this market is located in the Middle 
East. 
 
18. (U) Lisitsa told us that Rosenergoatom has no immediate plans to 
build FNPPs of any type for the foreign market.  There are still 
many operational and regulatory challenges to be addressed.  The 
present thinking is that the FNPPs will belong to Russia and will be 
operated by a Russian crew.  Electrical power (and fresh water) will 
be sold to the foreign consumers based on long-term contracts. 
Rosenergoatom sees this as lessening the burden on foreign consumers 
as Russia will be responsible for the FNPP's operation and security 
and for the return of SNF to Russia.  (COMMENT:  This begs the 
question of how the FNPP will be regulated, how its operation may 
conflict with local laws, and what kind of physical protection will 
be provided.  END COMMENT) 
 
---------------- 
CRITICS DISAGREE 
---------------- 
 
19. (SBU) Environmental groups are quick to disagree with Russian 
assurances.  A representative of an NGO in Arkhangelsk told ConGen 
St. Petersburg that his organization opposes the FNPPs because the 
reactors being used have an imperfect safety record on icebreakers 
and have never been used before for power generation.  A 
representative from the NGO Bellona, which along with Greenpeace has 
taken the lead in NW Russia in opposing the FNPPs, disagrees with 
Rosenergoatom that there is a realistic plan in place on handling 
and storing the tailings and SNF produced by the plants in their 
remote locations in Russia (or worse far away overseas).  Likewise, 
according to Bellona, there has been little discussion of what to do 
if one of these plants sank due to natural causes or terrorist 
attack or how safety procedures (for the crew and for nearby 
communities) could be implemented in such an impermanent setting. &#x0
00A; 
20. (SBU) Local environmentalists in Arkhangelsk are also angry 
because the public discussion on this serious issue has been 
lacking.  One NGO activist said that there haven't been public 
hearings on the construction since 2002, and the technical details 
of the project have changed since then.  He said that the Public 
Environmental Council of Severodvinsk -- made up of a dozen 
environmental NGO reps -- voted against the project, but Sevmash 
officials reportedly told them that "everything has been decided 
already and nothing can be changed."  According to the activist, 
Arkhangelsk Governor Nikolay Kiselev also ignored a letter from a 
local environmental NGO urging him to oppose construction of the 
FNPP.  Meanwhile, Ivan Blokov of Greenpeace Russia described 
Russia's FNPPs as "the most dangerous project that has been launched 
by the atomic sector in the whole world over the past decade." 
Charles Digges from Bellona commented that FNPPs are "absolutely 
unsafe, inherently so."  He continued: "There are risks of the unit 
itself sinking, there are risks in towing the units to where they 
need to be." 
 
21. (U) The risks cited by environmental NGOs are not unfounded.  In 
1977 the Sturgis ran into severe weather while it was being towed 
from Panama to Ft. Belvoir.  Suffering damage, it had to be diverted 
to North Carolina for temporary structural repairs.  The damage 
suffered contributed to the final decision to deactivate the 
reactor. 
 
22. (U) In addition to ecological concerns, critics cite FNPPs as 
easy targets for terrorist attacks and nuclear blackmail.  The 
possibility of theft of nuclear material gives rise to proliferation 
concerns. 
 
-------------------------------- 
COMMENT: FNPPs ARE IN OUR FUTURE 
-------------------------------- 
 
23. (SBU) With the high level kick-off on construction of the 
Lomonosov, it is clear that Russia is likely to complete 
construction of at least one FNPP.  Whether it will follow through 
on its plans for others is likely to depend on its experience with 
 
MOSCOW 00002040  004.2 OF 004 
 
 
the Lomonosov and whether the resulting costs remain roughly in the 
projected range.  Nevertheless, it is safe to conclude that Russia's 
program to design and build FNPPs has moved from words to deeds, and 
that the Russian government appears resolute on following through. 
 
24. (SBU) Kiriyenko and others have suggested on several occasions 
(refs A, B, and C) that design and development of FNPPs is a good 
area for practical U.S.-Russia cooperation under the GNEP umbrella. 
Lisitsa repeated this suggestion as he described the Russian FNPP 
program, and he expressed disappointment that he has not had contact 
with anyone in the United States who is working in this area.  A 
review of open U.S. literature on FNPPs shows that there are those 
who believe the United States never should have abandoned its 
program that led to the Sturgis.  There may be much to be gained by 
responding to Russian overtures.  A few meetings at the technical 
level are likely to provide much more information than can be 
gathered from Rosenergoatom literature and conversations with its 
managers.  In the words of U.S. engineer Rod Adams in an article 
written just a few days after the official start of work on the 
Lomonosov, "Floating nuclear plants -- don't cede the market to the 
Russians."  In light of planned U.S.-Russian cooperation under GNEP, 
this may be an opportune time to consider Kiriyenko's offer. 
 
BURNS

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