Seaborg Technologies says the floating “mini-nukes” could power countries by 2025. The Akademik Lomonosov began supplying electricity to the Russian port of Pevek on the East Siberian Sea in December 2019. (Image credit: Lev Fedoseyev/Tass)
What could go wrong? As the global population grows, the demand for electricity increases, but these demands are hard to meet in developing countries. Danish startup Seaborg Technologies believes it has the solution using mini nuclear reactors. The company says it can make cheap nuclear electricity a viable alternative to fossil fuels for developing countries as soon as 2025. How exactly? By sending them on floating barges.
Seaborg’s “mini-nukes” are made for countries that lack the energy grid infrastructure to develop renewable energy projects. The “mini-nukes” are fitted on ships, which generate electricity and transmits power to the mainland. The company sent its first energy-generating ship to the Russian port of Pevek on the East Siberian Sea in December 2019.
According to Troels Schönfeldt, chief executive of Seaborg, the company’s 100-megawatt compact molten salt reactor would take two years to build. Once completed, the reactor will generate electricity that is cheaper than coal-fired power. So far, the company has raised about £18.3M ($24.75M) from private investors, including Danish retail billionaire Anders Holch Povlsen. Recently, they received the first of the necessary regulatory approvals within a four-phase process from the American Bureau of Shipping.
Seaborg hopes to start taking orders by the end of 2022 for the nuclear barges, which would be built in South Korean shipyards and towed to coastlines where they could be anchored for up to 24 years. Using nuclear energy on seaborne vessels isn’t a new concept. They’ve been used to power submarines and “icebreaker” tanks for decades. But Seaborg’s design is the first example of a commercially available nuclear barge used to deliver electricity to the mainland.
Though this is a viable solution to help this fast-developing countries, there are many concerns about the idea. Nuclear power technology and floating power plants have many risks involved, and combining the two only raises concern. Jan Haverkamp, from Greenpeace, said floating reactors were “a recipe for disaster,” including “all of the flaws and risks of larger land-based nuclear power stations.”
Addressing the concerns, Seaborg assures the advanced reactor was designed to be as safe as possible in a worst-case scenario accident, with a system that causes the radioactive material to form a solid rock outside of the reactor core to prevent it from dispersing in the air or sea as a harmful gas or liquid.
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