Nuclear Power

Russian Research Center Kurchatov (Moscow)

. RRC Kurchatov has seven active reactors at this site, including the first reactor in Europe (1947). Ten thousand people are employed here to design, construct, and operate nuclear power reactors. The WTEC team was told that this is one of two institutes in Russia that develops reactors for military submarines.

The WTEC team was shown Gamma, an operating prototype of a nuclear-powered thermoelectric power source. This unit is designed for unattended operation on the seafloor to water depths of to 6,000 m. Table 3.2 shows Gamma's general specifications.

Table 3.2
Gamma Nuclear-Thermoelectric Power Source

No field installations have been made, and this prototype test unit will soon reach the end of its design life. However, in this case Gamma will last about twelve years, since it has not been operated continuously at full power.

RRC Kurchatov also has developed Helena, a design concept for a larger unit of 100 kWe that employs the same basic fuel elements and design approach as Gamma. None of this type has been built. Table 3.3 gives Helena's specifications.

Table 3.3
Helena Nuclear-Thermoelectric Power Source

Lazurit/Kurchatov ROSSHELF Joint Program. Lazurit is one of three organizations in Russia that does military submarine and submersible designs for the navy. Their defense conversion efforts are focused on development of a wide variety of non-military undersea vehicles, submarines and seafloor structures. None have been built yet.

ROSSHELF is a newly created company proposing to build a seafloor-based oil and gas production complex (maximum operating depth of 500 m) involving the design and technical cooperation of several Russian organizations. The Lazurit Central Design Bureau is proposing to design and engineer the seafloor structures while RRC Kurchatov would be responsible for designing the two nuclear reactors (turboelectric conversion) that will power the complex. There is a continuing, close tie between these two organizations.

Each of the two reactors will be rated for 6,000 kW. They will be highly automated, requiring only one supervising operator. These power sources will be located in the ROSSHELF Control and Power Unit (CPU), which will be in the form of two cylindrical pressure hulls. Reactor design life is estimated to be 30 years with major refit (refueling) being done every 10 years.

Existing design and fabrication technologies for pressure hulls and propulsion developed for the Soviet Navy nuclear submarine program will be used throughout the ROSSHELF complex. This may include the operating team for the reactors.

However, this is not straight defense conversion. Design, construction, and operation of a virtually unattended, seafloor-mounted, underwater nuclear power reactor of this size is most certainly a major new development program. To date, no one has developed a seafloor-sited nuclear power plant.

The full ROSSHELF concept also includes a nuclear-powered (15,000 kW) service-support submarine for the seafloor complex for tasks such as crew transfers, inspections, maintenance, repairs, and emergency evacuation. The submarine will be equipped to carry both a manned submersible and a fly-off remotely operated vehicle. A second manned submersible will be built as a rescue vehicle in case personnel have to be evacuated from any of the seafloor modules.

The program outline for ROSSHELF states that it will take from eight to ten years and about $2 billion to develop the prototype/pilot seafloor system, even though many of the basic technologies involved will be transferred from the defense area.

Lazurit Central Design Bureau (Nizhny Novgorod). In addition to ROSSHELF, some of Lazurit's defense conversion efforts apply the bureau's military nuclear submarine design expertise to commercial practice. One concept discussed with the WTEC team was a nuclear submarine container ship of 130,000 tons displacement. The cargo capacity is 1,000 TEUs (20-foot equivalent containers), which is small by surface ship standards, where 2,000 to 3,000 TEU vessels are common. The power plant will produce 45,000 kW. A second nonmilitary nuclear-powered submarine project that has been worked on by Lazurit is Ocean Shuttle. This is a small submarine (about 1,000 tons) that is designed for oceanographic and commercial ocean work tasks.

Originally this was a joint project between Lazurit and the ECS Group in Canada. Lazurit would design the submarine hull and major systems, while ECS would provide and install the small (100 kWe) reactor to power it. Because of the breakup of the Soviet Union, and difficulty getting funding from the Canadian side, this project was put on hold.

Lazurit is still interested in doing this project, and claims that use of a Russian reactor would reduce the program cost (originally about $100 million) by more than one-third. Of interest is the fact that this nuclear power system would represent an entirely new design, since Ocean Shuttle's power system is intended to be relatively low powered, to be fail safe, to have low temperature and pressures, and to operate virtually unattended.

Krylov Shipbuilding Research Institute (St. Petersburg). This is the principal shipbuilding research organization in the former Soviet Union. The institute's Marine Power Plants and Nuclear Power Plant divisions are concerned with marine power and energy systems. Unfortunately, the WTEC team was not given information about these activities at Krylov. It may be that Krylov's Nuclear Power Plant Division is only concerned with large installations for submarine and surface ship applications.

However, Krylov has been responsible for the design of several deep submersibles. Krylov also has the national responsibility for developing recommendations for classification rules for the design, construction, and maintenance of all Russian manned submersibles. Therefore, with this degree of experience, there is reason to believe that the institute also has contributed to the development of power systems for submersibles.

Fuel Cells

Energia Space Corporation (Moscow)

. Energia is a key institute for manned spaceflight vehicles and large payload rockets. The institute also has developed Russia's version of the space shuttle Buran.

Energia has developed a hydrogen-oxygen (H2-O2) fuel cell (designated by Energia as an "electrochemical generator" or "EG"), called "Foton" (Photon) for its space shuttle, which carries four of these cells. Energia says that its unit is similar to NASA's fuel cell in the U.S. Space Shuttle. Energia has manufactured 100 Photon EGs since 1987. In test programs and on actual missions, these cells have accumulated a total of 80,000 hours of operational experience. Table 3.4 gives the parameters for Photon.

Table 3.4
Energia Photon Fuel Cell for Space Applications

Based on the Photon development program, ENERGIA now offers two modified versions for undersea applications. The first is a hydrogen-oxygen power unit fuel cell and the second is a hydrogen-oxygen electrical battery (HOBU). Both are based on the Photon developments. Tables 3.5 and 3.6 provide the general specifications for these units.

Table 3.5
Energia Hydrogen-Oxygen Power Fuel Cell for Submersibles

Energia representatives state that they can design, develop, and manufacture prototype units within 1.5 to 3 years once an order has been received.

Table 3.6
Energia HOBU Hydrogen-Oxygen Battery

Energia also has proposed a cell that would use phosphoric acid and natural gas as the reactants. However, this would be intended for fixed applications on land.

Finally, the company has helped develop a design for 10-passenger tourist submarines with the Russian Intershelf J.P. Kenny Company. J.P. Kenny is considering using Energia's fuel cell (or HOBU battery) to power it.

Lazurit Central Design Bureau (Nizhny Novgorod). About five years ago, Lazurit designed a conversion of an older diesel-electric submarine to H2-O2 propulsion. Some features of this installation were:

The submarine has been taken out of service and scrapped in the Ukraine.

State Nautical University (St. Petersburg). The university has developed a water-activated, semi-fuel cell, magnesium-water energy system, which has a 200 Wh/kg energy density. These units have been built and tested in various sizes. No additional specifications were provided to the WTEC team. The panel believes this design might be similar to the Alupower (United States) aluminum-oxygen semi-fuel cells (see section below).

Marconi/Alupower (United Kingdom/United States). Alupower Inc. (Warren, New Jersey), part of the Aluminum Company of Canada, has developed an aluminum-air (oxygen) semi-fuel cell. The battery uses very pure (99.999 percent) aluminum plates, potassium hydroxide as the electrolyte, and air (oxygen) as the reactant materials.

Compared to other types of batteries, this energy source is of long duration and therefore of particular interest to developers of AUVs where extended mission times are desired. An Alupower energy system, AUV XP-21, by Advanced Remote Technologies in San Diego, California, is presently being sea tested in the United States. To conform to the shape of the AUV, the cell stacks are 21 inches in diameter.

Installation in Marconi's ODAS will greatly reduce space required for the battery system and thus will provide more mission payload space. At the same time this unit will significantly increase mission time. ODAS will use half an XP-21 cell. Table 3.7 provides the specifications for the aluminum-air battery.


State Nautical University (St. Petersburg)

. The university has designed and tested a full pressure compensation system for large numbers of alkaline cells. Compliant battery cases and oil-filled cables are used to isolate seawater from the system. It is not clear whether or not the university has developed any new battery systems or has just been involved in repackaging existing units. The WTEC team was not provided with detailed information on this development.

Table 3.7
Alupower Aluminum Oxygen Battery

Deacon Laboratory, Institute of Oceanographic Science (United Kingdom). Deacon Laboratory of the Institute for Oceanographic Sciences is responsible for managing a multi-organization project, Autosub, which will develop two AUV systems for long-duration research tasks. To ensure that all contributing technologies are optimized, a "Demonstrator Test Vehicle" AUV will be built and sea tested.

Lithium-sulphur dioxide (Li-SO2) batteries are under consideration for the Demonstrator Test Vehicle's propulsion -- other technologies may also be considered depending on the mission. Initially, for trials and short missions, secondary batteries will be used. The Li-SO2 battery should be sufficient for the vehicle's 1,200 range. However, this will not be sufficient for the DOLPHIN and DOGGIE long-duration AUV missions (up to 30 days and 7,000 km transits). Energy-dense power system choices could include a fuel cell or semi-fuel cell such as the Alupower unit (see Table 3.7).

Marconi Underwater Systems Ltd. (United Kingdom). Marconi's Ocean Data Acquisition System AUV is operational and uses sodium-sulphur batteries. These batteries were developed several years ago by the automotive industry for electric vehicles. Therefore, they are of moderately proven design with fairly low technical risk. A limitation is that they must operate at a high temperature (~300 C). Table 3.8 describes the battery system for the ODAS AUV.

Rauma Nickel-Iron (Ni-Fe) Storage Battery (Finland). This is the type of battery developed by Rauma Oceanics for the two Mir, 6,000 m submersibles built for the USSR Academy of Sciences. This development took place when the Shirshov Institute decided not to use hydrazine gas generators as the primary power source onboard these submersibles.

Table 3.8
Sodium-Sulfur Battery for ODAS

These cells have been used for several hundred dives onboard the Mirs and have been thoroughly field tested. The Shirshov Institute has reported that the cells have been very reliable and that their capacity has permitted mission times up to 18 hours with a generous power reserve remaining. Table 3.9 gives the specifications for this battery, which are commercial units offered for sale by Rauma Oceanics.

Table 3.9
Rauma Nickel-Iron Battery


Bauman Institute of Underwater Devices and Robotics (Moscow)

. Bauman is part of Moscow State Technical University, the oldest institute in Russia. Primarily an educational organization, the Institute of Underwater Devices and Robotics has developed a solid propellant that uses water as an oxidizer. The gas generated is intended to power submersibles, probably by the use of turboelectric generators. Since Bauman indicated that its unit uses solid fuel, it is clear that the fuel is not a hydrazine-based energy source (see section on Rauma Oceanics below for this type of development in Finland). This appears to be a unique means of power generation for undersea applications.

Bauman has operationally tested a unit onboard one of the navy's four Poseideon submarine rescue submersibles. This is a particularly good application for a long-duration power system due to the time-critical nature of the mission. Bauman is also working on a unit to replace batteries on other types of manned submersibles.

Morteplotekhnika (MTT) Scientific Research Institute (St. Petersburg). MTT was founded in 1946 with captured German experts to do research and development in underwater technologies. In recent years the focus of the staff of 200 has been on high performance (i.e., military) undersea vehicles.

The WTEC team visit to MTT was canceled upon arrival in Russia. However, the team received a one-page summary of MTT's activities. According to this information, MTT has been responsible for development of power systems for undersea vehicles and probably small submarines.

MTT's primary developmental line in energy sources has been thermal systems, using various fuel types that are quiet and capable of operating at great depths. According to MTT's paper, a series of power plants have been built and tested at sea.

State Nautical University (St. Petersburg). Primarily an academic institution (5,000 students), the research conducted by faculty (600 plus 300 researchers) and graduate students has included energy systems for undersea vehicles. Work has been conducted on Sterling cycle engines; however, WTEC was given no specific details.

IFREMER/COMEX Saga Submarine (Marseille/Toulon). Built by COMEX in France in 1987, Saga is powered submerged by a two-Sterling cycle engine that was built in Sweden. Conventional lead acid batteries, with a capacity of 0.8 MWh, provide energy backup. A diesel engine is installed for surface operations and recharging the batteries. Table 3.10 gives some specifications for the Sterling Cycle power system.

Saga underwent successful sea trials in 1991, but is presently in storage at Marseille due to lack of work. The French national ocean agency, IFREMER, provided the majority of funding for this program. Through its laboratory in Toulon, IFREMER has operational control of Saga.

Table 3.10
Saga Sterling Engines

DCN AIP For Military Submarines (Toulon). The French Naval Arsenal at Toulon (DCN) has an active project to develop and test an air independent propulsion (AIP) system for military submarines. Discussions have been held with IFREMER to use Saga as a test bed for the Navy's experimental AIP system.

Rauma Oceanics (Finland). Rauma has developed and tested a hydrazine hydrate gas energy source. The original intent was to provide 200 kWh of power for a proposed 6,000 m research submersible, the Akademik. These hydrazine gas generators could also be used for emergency ballast blowing at depths greater than 6,000 m.

This was a joint Rauma Repola (now Rauma Oceanics) - USSR development that began in 1985, although the first suggestion to use hydrazine came from Canada in the late 1970s. The USSR side was the P.P. Shirshov Institute of Oceanology, which set specifications and funded the submersible development.

By the time the construction contract was let, the companies had decided to build two 6,000 m submersibles that would be called Mir (i.e., "peace") I and II. The Shirshov Institute also made a conservative design decision, and storage batteries, providing 100 kWh, were used by Rauma Oceanics. The submersibles were delivered by Rauma in 1987.

As part of the original construction contract, Rauma was to develop a prototype hydrazine power unit. It was built in the early 1990s and successfully tested at sea in 1993. Table 3.11 gives its specifications. The next generation unit (RDP-100) increased power output to 50 kW with an increase in total system weight to 950 kg.

Table 3.11
Rauma Rankine Cycle Engine

Rauma RDP-100 Power Pack (Finland). This hydrazine power unit was developed from the Mir developmental program and is advertised for sale by Rauma. The specifications are similar to those of the unit described in Table 3.11. The primary difference is that the RDP-100 product is adaptable to many different types of fuels (e.g., hydrazine, kerosene, jet fuel, etc.). The units are also pressure compensated and operational to a depth of 6,000 m.

Correspondence to the panel from IFREMER in the Fall of 1993 mentioned the Rankine engine "MESMA," developed by the BERTIN Company, which was previously unknown to this author.

Published: June 1994; WTEC Hyper-Librarian