Submerged energy module for the Arctic | Polarjournal
The submerged energy module is designed to supply energy to places where the construction of more conventional power plants is not possible. (Photo: Malakhit)

Design Bureau “Malakhit” develops a project for an Arctic submersible energy module (SEM) with a nominal power of 2 x 10 MW, as stated on the Telegram channel of the United Shipbuilding Corporation USC. Malakhit Marine Engineering Bureau, a subsidiary of USC is a Saint Petersburg based company specializing in submarine design.

According to the designers, the underwater energy module should allow energy supply to objects that are to be built in places where conventional power plants cannot be installed. These include, for example, mining sites on the Arctic shelf deposits with difficult ice conditions or settlements, stations and bases on remote Arctic coastal regions with too great distances to the nearest power plants.

The benefits, according to the project page cited by the Malakhit website, include the ability to provide “controlled descent and ascent using eight anchor lines” and increased seismic resistance when floating in the water. (Photo: Malakhit)

The post on USC’s Telegram channel lists some of the proposed solutions for the energy modules in the concept designs. For instance, two nuclear reactors are to serve as the main energy sources, and the module is to be placed on the seafloor from the surface first, then moored to its final location with anchor lines. This is to keep the module at a safe water depth for a long time. As the SEM can dive to a depth of 400 meters, there is no risk of collision with icebergs, the developers are convinced. Plans for the use of the power plant include its long-term operation without personnel on board. A regular safety check is scheduled every three months. For a period of six days, a small group of specialists will be able to monitor and maintain the facility.

According to the design office, it will be possible to supply and maintain the module both on the surface and underwater. To this end, an appropriate underwater vehicle will be used to deliver personnel and supplies to the module.

As yet, how far the project has progressed is unclear. However, ambitions to create a nuclear-powered underwater complex are nothing new. Already in 2016, Russian media provided a report presenting studies and 3D modeling for a reactor that would meet IAEA requirements.

When it comes to supplying energy along the Arctic coastal regions, the Kremlin is increasingly relying on nuclear technology by further developing small reactors to replace the old and inefficient coal-fired power plants. The most prominent example involves the Admiral Lomonosov floating nuclear power plant, which is located in the port of Pevek in Chukotka to provide electricity to the village and the mines located in the hinterland. The KLT-40S reactors used in the plant have since undergone further development, the main aim being to increase output while reducing size. Today, the latest generation of the RITM-200S type is also used in China for building such floating nuclear power plants.

Heiner Kubny, PolarJournal

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