Floating nuclear power plants promise major savings for Arctic mines – by Peter Varga (Nunatsiaq News – April 17, 2015)


Diesel-fuelled power “not sustainable for the scale of development we want to see”

Mining projects in Nunavut are saddled with high expenses that could discourage development. With that in mind, why not go for a tried and proven cheaper source of energy that can come and go on the high seas, and reach the territory’s coastal communities?

That’s just what Dunedin Energy Systems Ltd., an Ontario-based energy consulting firm, suggested when it pointed to “floating nuclear power plants” as an alternative energy source, April 16 at the Nunavut Mining Symposium in Iqaluit.

Nuclear power generators have been cruising the high seas in the ships of the world’s biggest navies since the 1950s, Peter Lang, president of Dunedin, told an audience at the symposium.

“Since then, civilian applications have come along,” Lang said during his presentation, adding that icebreakers and carriers powered by nuclear energy also sail the high seas.

A generator on a ship can produce more than enough for the largest mines now operating in northern Canada, at a fraction of the cost that diesel-fuelled power generators require, he said.

A Russian nuclear engineering company, OKBM Afrikantov, has taken a lead on the idea of adapting such technology to supply power for Arctic communities, Lang said. The firm is now building a floating nuclear power plant for an Arctic port town of Pevek, in northeastern Siberia, which has little more than 4,000 residents.

“Clean, safe, and portable energy is absolutely key to mine profitability, and the current diesel [power generation] model is not sustainable for the scale of development we want to see,” Lang said.

“I think that small, floating nuclear power plants can work toward a solution, and be a part of the energy mix.”

Floating power plants “can really do the heavy lifting and dramatically cut diesel costs and environmental costs,” he said.

Lang reminded that all six operating mines in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories rely on diesel-fuelled power, as do all communities of Nunavut.

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