Rosatom, Russia’s state nuclear corporation, has prolonged the lifespan of a reactor it has long said it will shut down, pointing to a possible hiccup in plans for the controversial Akademik Lomonosov, the county’s first floating nuclear station, to power a remote Arctic region. The reactor is one of four at the Bilibino nuclear power plant, the world’s northernmost commercial nuclear facility, whose power production Rosatom said would be replaced by the floating plant. The Akademik Lomonosov recently arrived in the Chukotka region port of Pevek, where it was connected to the local power grid, suggesting that plans to phase out the Bilibino reactors was imminent.
At the end of December, Rosatom surprised observers by announcing that the Bilibino plant’s No 2 reactor – scheduled to shut down next year – had been granted a 5-year operational runtime extension, pushing its closure back to December of 2025. The permit for the extended reactor at Bilibino ‘marked the final point in many months of preparation’ toward prolonging the reactor’s lifespan.
When the Bilibino nuclear station was finished in 1976, it became the world’s northernmost nuclear power plant – and certainly the only one operating in an entirely permafrost environment. The port of Pevek, where the Akademik Lomonosov is moored, is accessible to Bilibino only by a highway built on icepack.