Nuclear reactors offshore: a good way to use nuclear power?
There are many things people do not want to be built in their backyard, and nuclear power stations are high on the list. But what if floating reactors could be moored offshore, out of sight? There is plenty of water to keep them cool and the electricity they produce can easily be carried onshore by undersea cables.
Moreover, once the nuclear plant has reached the end of its life it can be towed away to be decommissioned. Unusual as it might seem, such an idea is gaining supporters in America and Russia.
The potential benefits of building nuclear power stations on floating platforms, much like those used in the offshore oil-and-gas industry, were recently presented to a symposium hosted by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers by Jacopo Buongiorno, Michael Golay, Neil Todreas and their colleagues at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, along with others from the University of Wisconsin and Chicago Bridge & Iron, a company involved in both the nuclear and offshore industries.
Floating nuclear power stations (like the one in the illustration above) would have both economic and safety benefits, according to the researchers. For one thing, they could take advantage of two mature and well-understood technologies: light-water nuclear reactors and the construction of offshore platforms, says Dr Buongiorno. The structures would be built in shipyards using tried-and-tested techniques and then towed several miles out to sea and moored to the sea floor.