(nuclear power plant), a unit designed for use on means of transport.
Nuclear-propulsion plants are primarily used by the atomic fleet. This is because they possess a number of advantages over marine engines powered by conventional fuel: virtually unlimited navigational autonomy, high shaft power, and, consequently, the ability to travel at high speeds for prolonged periods of time. The nuclear-propulsion plant consists of (1) a nuclear reactor and accompanying equipment and (2) steam or gas turbines to convert the thermal energy released in the reactor into mechanical or electrical energy. Water-cooled water-moderated reactors are primarily used in nuclear-propulsion plants. Nuclear-propulsion plants are used primarily on submarines because the operation of such units does not require oxygen, and consequently submarines can remain submerged longer.
The first nonmilitary nuclear-powered ship, the atomic icebreaker Lenin, was built in the Soviet Union in 1959. More powerful nuclear-powered icebreakers were subsequently built—the Arktika in 1974 and the Sibir’ in 1977. In the 1960’s and 1970’s, other countries also built experimental nuclear-powered transport vessels for peaceful purposes: the Savannah (United States), the Otto Hahn (Federal Republic of Germany), and the Mutsu (Japan).
At various times over the years a number of countries have worked on the development of nuclear-powered aircraft (airplanes, dirigibles); however, as of 1978, such work has not progressed beyond feasibility studies and the planning stage. Research on nuclear-powered spacecraft has developed somewhat further; for example, the Nerva project in the United States has reached the stage of bench-scale testing.
IU. I. KORIAKIN