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Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) To Power Arctic Development

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Four small modular reactors (SMRs) will power the huge Baimskaya copper and gold mining development in the Russian Arctic, according to an agreement signed by Rosatom subsidiary Atomflot. The company’s director general, Mustafa Kashka, said the deal was significant for the whole global market for small reactors.

Baimskaya is one of the world’s largest mineral deposits and is very rich in copper and gold. However, development of the remote site in Russia’s eastern Chukotka region demands a complex multi-partner regional plan involving the Russian government, the regional government and developers KAZ Minerals, which itself expects to spend as much as USD8 billion (USD110 million). Across all the partners, over RUB150 billion will be spent on power plants and transmission for the future mine.

Today the project advanced with the signing of a “preliminary agreement” for power supply by Kashka and Oleg Novachuk, chairman of KAZ Minerals subsidiary GDK Baimskaya at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok.

“Thanks to the agreement with Atomflot, it is possible to economically develop the largest Baimskaya field, which is located in a remote area where there is no relevant infrastructure,” said Novachuk.

Nuclear power already plays a role in Baimskaya’s development as early facilities there are powered by the Akademik Lomonosov floating nuclear power plant at Pevek. KAZ Minerals said the plant will supply up to 20 MWe of nuclear power to the mine during its construction phase.

In operation, more than 300 MWe will be required for Baimskaya as well as a new port which will be constructed at Cape Nagloynyn, according to KAZ Minerals statements. The agreement foresees this demand being met by two new floating power plants, each with two RITM-200M reactors. The first two should be in operation at Cape Nagloynyn by the beginning of 2027, the third in 2028 and the final one at the start of 2031.

The cost of delivered electricity at Cape Nagloynyn will be RUB6 per kWh in 2020 prices, Atomflot said. This is equivalent to USD82.42 per MWh. Kashka said, “The deal for such a volume of electricity was concluded on commercial terms.” KAZ Minerals documents say that LNG had been the alternative.

Kashka celebrated the landmark deployment of SMRs: “The agreement with GDK Baimskaya is significant not only for the development of Atomflot, but also for the global market of transportable nuclear power plants of low power.”

Yakutia development

Separately, further small nuclear plants were the subject of another agreement signed by Rosatom head Alexey Likhachov with the Minister of the Russian Federation for the Development of the Far East and the Arctic, Alexei Chekunkov, and the head of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) Aisen Nikolaev.

The signatories will consider construction of a small power plant to “overcome the main infrastructural limitations of launching promising commercial projects in the North Yakutsk Arctic zone and will ensure the stability of energy supply and prices for electricity.”

The mechanism of the ‘Far Eastern concession’ will be used for the construction, Rosatom said. Chekunkov said the choice of a concession “is optimal for the speedy implementation of the project for the construction of nuclear power plants, since the creation of a reliable and environmentally friendly source of energy in Yakutia is extremely important for the socio-economic development of the region, and will also attract new investors and improve the quality of life of the population.”

The potential new power plant would be based on RITM-200N reactors, Rosatom said, but no site or timeline was specified. There is already a project for a power plant based on one RITM-200N unit at Ust-Kuyga in Yakutia, expected to start up in 2028.

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