Why a nuclear reactor on a promising Russian destroyer
- Press Service of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, statement from 11 September 2013
The power plant is the heart of any technology. The parameters of all mechanisms and subsystems that make up the structure under consideration are rigidly tied to the energy source. The choice of the power plant is the most difficult stage in the design of a technical system, on the correctness of which (and the availability of a suitable SU) everything depends.
The expediency of having a nuclear power plant on a prospective Russian destroyer causes long discussions. Each of the parties cites noteworthy arguments, and official sources do not give any specific explanations about the characteristics and appearance of the future ship.
Baseline data are as follows. To date, the need for a nuclear power plant (YASU) has been confirmed in three classes of ships and vessels:
- on submarines (the reason is obvious - the need for powerful air independent power plant);
- on icebreakers, due to their long work in the mode of maximum power. The installed capacity utilization for modern nuclear-powered icebreakers is 0,6 ... 0,65 - twice as high as that of any naval combat ship. Icebreakers literally “break” in the ice, while not being able to leave the track to replenish fuel supplies;
- on supercarriers, where monstrous size and power make it unprofitable to use conventional SU. However, British designers have recently refuted this claim - on a new aircraft carrier, preference was given to gas turbines. At the same time, Queen Elizabeth (60 thous. Tons) was planned to be equipped with an extremely energy-intensive system - an electromagnetic EMAPS catapult.
The need to equip YSU ships of other classes looks doubtful. By the beginning of the twenty-first century. There are practically no cruiser / destroyer class nuclear surface ships in the world. Moreover, there are no plans abroad to create such ships. The Americans wrote off all their nuclear-powered cruisers as early as the middle of the 90-s, with the wording “unreasonably high operating costs, with no specific advantages”.
The only exception is the Russian heavy nuclear-powered cruiser Peter the Great (simultaneously considered the largest and most expensive non-aircraft-carrying ship in the world) and its counterpart — the Admiral Nakhimov TARKR (formerly the cruiser Kalinin, launched three decades ago).
It would seem that everything is obvious: a promising atomic destroyer for the Russian Navy looks like a complete anachronism. But the problem is much deeper than it seems at first glance.
The arguments "against" and "for"
The argument of the opponents of the construction of nuclear destroyers is based on five “postulates” put forward in the report of the operational management of the US Navy headquarters in 1961:
1. The factor of increasing the cruising range at maximum speeds for surface ships is not decisive. In other words, naval sailors do not need to cross the seas and oceans on the 30 hub.
Patrolling, control of maritime communications, search for submarines, escort of convoys, humanitarian and military operations in the coastal zone - all this requires much lower speeds. Weather conditions and hydrographic conditions often impede movement in full swing. Finally, it is worth thinking about the safety of the resource mechanisms - the head Orlan (Kirov, he is Admiral Ushakov) finally “killed” his power plant during the march to the place of death of the Komsomolets. Four days at full speed!
2. The higher cost of a ship with YASU. At the time when the report was written, it was known that the construction of a nuclear cruiser is obtained in 1,3 — 1,5 times as expensive as building a ship with a conventional propulsion system similar in composition. The comparison of the operating costs was not possible, due to the lack of experience in the operation of nuclear-powered ships in those years.
Currently this item still raises the most questions. The main secret is the cost of fuel uranium assemblies (including their transportation and disposal). However, according to recent calculations, while maintaining the current dynamics of oil prices, the cost of the 30-year life cycle of the surface ships of the main classes will, on average, be 19% higher than the cost of the cycle of their non-atom counterparts. The construction of an atomic destroyer will be expedient only with an increase in the price of oil to $ 233 per barrel by the year 2040. The existence of an atomic assault ship (of the Mistral type) will be beneficial only if the price of oil rises to $ 323 per barrel by the 2040 year (based on 4,7% per year).
The growth of energy consumption and the installation of advanced equipment on board destroyers is also not too concerned for sailors. The capabilities of existing ship generators are enough to power super radars with a peak power of 6 MW. In the case of even more voracious systems (AMDR, 10 megawatts), the designers propose to solve the problem by installing an additional generator in one of the Orly Burk helicopter hangars, without drastic changes in the design and damage to the combat capabilities of the small destroyer.
Stop! And who ever said that a nuclear power plant should have more power than a gas turbine of similar size ?! This will be discussed in the next paragraph.
3. As of the beginning of the 60-x, the weight and dimensions of the shipboard YSU significantly exceeded those of conventional GEM (with the same power on the propeller shafts). The reactor, with its cooling circuits and biological protection, weighed no more than a water boiler or a gas turbine with a supply of fuel.
Nuclear Steam Plant (PPI) is not all. To convert the energy of superheated steam into the kinetic energy of rotating screws, the main turbo gear unit (GTZA) is required. It is a bulky turbine with a gearbox, which is not inferior in size to a conventional gas turbine.
It becomes clear why the atomic cruisers of the Cold War times each time turned out to be larger than their non-nuclear colleagues.
There is every reason to believe that this situation continues to this day. The stated indicators of promising nuclear steam power plants suitable for installation on ships (RHYTHM 200, 80 thousand hp, mass 2200 tons) suggest certain conclusions: the PPG weighs no less than a set of gas turbines (typical LM2500 weighs within 100 tons, Each of the destroyers is equipped with four such installations) and the necessary fuel reserve (average for modern cruisers and destroyers - 1300 ... 1500 tons).
From the presented advertising booklet OKBM them. I. Afrikantov is not clear whether this figure (2200 tons) includes the mass of turbo-generators, but it is clear that this mass does not include the mass of the rowing electric motors. (note. RITM 200 PPE was created for the newest icebreakers of the 22220 Ave. with full electric propulsion).
And this despite the fact that any nuclear-powered icebreaker is necessarily equipped with a backup power plant (diesel engines / boilers), which in the event of an accident at YASU, crawls to the coast at the minimum speed. These are standard safety requirements.
The ship is propelled by two General Electric gas turbines LM2500
4. The fourth postulate states that for the maintenance of YASU, a greater number of attendants are needed, moreover, of higher qualification. What entails a further increase in displacement and cost of operating the ship.
Perhaps this situation was true for the beginning of the atomic era fleet. But already in the 70s it lost its meaning. This can be easily seen by looking at the number of crews of nuclear submarines (an average of 100-150 people). To manage the huge two-reactor "loaf" (Project 949A), 130 people were enough. The record is inimitable “Lira” (pr. 705), whose crew consisted of 32 officers and midshipmen!
5. The most important note. The autonomy of the ship is limited not only by fuel supplies. There is still autonomy for provisions, for ammunition, for spare parts and consumables (lubricants, etc.). For example, the estimated supply of food on board the Peter the Great is only 60 days (with a crew of 635 people)
There is no problem with fresh water - it is received directly on board in any necessary quantities. But there are problems with the reliability of mechanisms and equipment. As with the endurance of the crew - the sailors can not spend half a year on the high seas without going ashore. People and technology need rest.
Finally, discussions around unlimited cruising range lose their meaning when discussing actions in a squadron. It is not possible to equip YASU with each helicopter carrier, minesweeper or frigate - the atomic destroyer, in one way or another, will have to drag along with everyone, watching how other ships replenish their fuel with the help of the KSS and naval tankers.
Proponents of the use of YASU, on the contrary, argue that any allegations of autonomy over the reserves of provisions are a cheap provocation. The greatest problems always deliver fuel. Thousands of tons of fuel! Everything else - food, spare parts - has a relatively compact size. They can be easily and quickly delivered to the ship or stored in advance in the compartments (when it is known that a trip to full autonomy is planned).
Today it is the most advanced destroyer in the world
Opponents of nuclear energy have their own serious arguments. The best of the modern GEMs, built on a full electric propulsion scheme (FEP) and using a combination of economic propulsion and afterburner gas turbines (CODLOG), demonstrate impressive efficiency and economy. The modest destroyer "Daring" is able to overcome nautical miles (from Murmansk to Rio de Janeiro) at one gas station to 7000.
When operating in remote marine areas, the autonomy of such a ship is almost no different from the autonomy of an atomic ship. A lower cruising speed than a nuclear ship is not critical in the age of radars, aviation and rocket weapons. Moreover, as noted above, the icebreaker also cannot continuously move at a speed of 30 + nodes - otherwise, it will need an annual overhaul with the complete replacement of the power plant.
At the same time, one naval tanker (integrated supply ship) is able to fill five to ten such destroyers in one voyage!
Of the other arguments put forward by opponents of the construction of nuclear surface ships, it should be noted doubts about the high survivability of the nuclear destroyer and its safety in the event of receiving combat damage. After all, a damaged gas turbine is an ordinary pile of metal. The damaged reactor core is a deadly emitter capable of killing all those who managed to survive the attack of the enemy.
The facts show that fears about the consequences of damage to the reactor are greatly exaggerated. Suffice it to recall the death of the submarine "Kursk". The terrible explosion that destroyed several compartments did not cause a radiation catastrophe. Both reactors were automatically shut down and safely lay for a whole year at a depth of over 100 meters.
It is worth adding that, in addition to local booking of the reactor compartment, the casing of the reactor itself is made of a powerful metal array with a thickness of decimeter. None of the modern RCC is not able to disturb the active zone of the reactor.
The survivability of an atomic-powered vessel is hardly very different from the survivability of conventional destroyers. The combat strength of a ship with YASU can be even higher, due to the absence of thousands of tons of fuel on board. At the same time, his death can cause irreparable consequences for others. This risk should always be considered when sending a nuclear-powered icebreaker to the war. Any emergency on board, fire or grounding will become a global incident (as happens with the submarine).
Unhealthy public attention to nuclear ships, fueled by dishonest environmentalists, creates major problems for the development of shipboard nuclear weapons systems. And if the ban on approaching the coast of N. Zealand is unlikely to have any significance for the domestic fleet, then an international ban on the entry of nuclear ships into the Black Sea can cause a lot of trouble and problems for the Russian Navy. Basing destroyers in Sevastopol would be impossible. In addition, problems will arise during the passage of the Suez and Panama canals. The owners of hydraulic structures will not miss the opportunity and, in addition to long paperwork, will impose a triple tribute to sailors.
Why does Russia have an atomic destroyer?
On the technical side, nuclear destroyers will not have any serious advantages or disadvantages over ships with conventional GEMs (gas turbine or combined type).
A higher cruising speed, unlimited (in theory) autonomy for fuel reserves and no need for refueling during the entire combat campaign ... Alas, all these advantages can hardly be realized in practice during real combat services of the Navy. And because they are not of particular interest to the fleet. Otherwise, nuclear and conventional GEM have approximately equal weights, dimensions and provide the same power on the propeller shafts. The danger of radiation accidents can be neglected - as the experience of operating the domestic icebreaker fleet shows, the probability of such an event is close to zero.
The only disadvantage of the shipboard JSU is their higher cost. At least, this is indicated by the data of open reports of the US Navy and the absence of atomic destroyers in the composition of foreign fleets.
Another drawback of the ships with YSU is connected with the geographical position of Russia - the Black Sea Fleet remains without destroyers.
At the same time, the use of YASU on Russian ships has a number of important prerequisites. As you know, power plants have always been a weak point of domestic ships. The destroyers of 956 Ave., which were frozen at the piers, with the "killed" boiler-turbine power plant became a talk of the town, as well as the ocean cruises of the Admiral Kuznetsov aircraft carrying cruiser (in case of another breakdown of the power plant). Experts express their claims to the overly complicated and confusing scheme of the gas turbine power plant of Atlant-type missile cruisers (1164 Ave.) - with a heat recovery loop and auxiliary steam turbines. Observant photographers excite the public with photographs of Russian corvettes of 20380 Ave, emitting caps of thick smoke. As if we are not the newest ships, built on technology "stealth", and paddle steamer on the Mississippi River.
And against the background of this disgrace - countless world tours of the nuclear-powered cruiser Peter the Great, which is worn without stopping around the globe. Maneuvers in the Atlantic, the Mediterranean, Tartus - and now the mass of the cruiser, accompanied by icebreakers, is lost in the mist in the area of the Novosibirsk Islands. Russian atomic icebreakers demonstrate no less reliability and efficiency (however, the word “Russian” here is superfluous - not a single country in the world, except the Russian Federation, has atomic icebreakers). 30 July 2013, the nuclear icebreaker "50 years of Victory" for the hundredth time reached the North Pole. Impressive?
It turns out that the Russians have learned something. If we have such successful experience in the development and operation of shipboard YSU - why not use it when creating promising warships? Yes, obviously such a ship will turn out to be more expensive than its non-nuclear counterpart. But, in fact, we simply have no alternative to YASU.
Also, do not forget that, unlike the American fleet, we have a completely different concept of the development of the Navy.
The Yankees relied on massive construction of destroyers, with the use of full standardization and unification of their components and mechanisms (which, however, did not help much - the ships still turned out to be monstrously complex and expensive).
Our surface component, due to different national characteristics, will look different: a couple of large attack destroyers, similar in size to the experimental American destroyer Zamvolt, surrounded by cheaper and mass frigates. Russian destroyers will be an expensive “piece goods”, and the use of YASU is unlikely to have a significant impact on the cost of operating these monsters. Nuclear destroyer or destroyer with a conventional GEM? In my opinion, each of these options in our case is win-win. The main thing is that USC and the Ministry of Defense would quickly move from words to deeds and start building new Russian destroyer class ships.
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