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MIT Designs Tsunami Proof Floating Nuclear Reactor

samzenpus posted about 4 months ago | from the riding-the-waves dept.

Power 218

First time accepted submitter Amtrak (2430376) writes "MIT has created designs for a nuclear plant that would avoid the downfall of the Fukushima Daiichi plant. The new design calls for the nuclear plant to be placed on a floating platform modeled after the platforms used for offshore oil drilling. A floating platform several miles offshore, moored in about 100 meters of water, would be unaffected by the motions of a tsunami; earthquakes would have no direct effect at all. Meanwhile, the biggest issue that faces most nuclear plants under emergency conditions — overheating and potential meltdown, as happened at Fukushima, Chernobyl, and Three Mile Island — would be virtually impossible at sea."

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Step 2. (1)

scottnix (951749) | about 4 months ago | (#46783815)

Convince the career politicians.
Step 3. Convince the tax payers.
There is no step 4.

Re:Step 2. (5, Insightful)

geekmux (1040042) | about 4 months ago | (#46783877)

Convince the career politicians. Step 3. Convince the tax payers. There is no step 4.

Convincing the taxpayers gets rather easy when it is career politicians ensuring alternative (or traditional) fuel costs continue to rise by placating lobbyists. They sure as hell aren't getting cheaper over time as resources continue to be depleted and we refuse (for whatever illogical or corrupt reason) to accept nuclear power in its place.

Re:Step 2. (1)

pixelpusher220 (529617) | about 4 months ago | (#46783905)

Step 3. Containment anyone? If something does go wrong, it's going to do wonders for local marine life...

I can make a computer hack proof. It has to be feasible and usable too. Besides, it's not like oil rigs sink or anything...

Re:Step 2. (5, Informative)

mysidia (191772) | about 4 months ago | (#46783987)

This is why we need to switch to LFTRs [youtube.com]

No pressure vessel to worry about.

Re:Step 2. (4, Informative)

cbhacking (979169) | about 4 months ago | (#46784087)

We already have very advanced containment systems. There's nothing about them that would be unsuitable for oceanic use, aside from requiring a whole lot of floatation. The containment system at Fukushima wasn't even close to modern, yet it did a pretty good job anyhow. Hell, the system at Three Mile Island contained nearly all the radioactive material, and that was 35 years ago.

With even the Mark 1 containment building found at Fukushima (which was 40 years old; the same age as TMI), an incident like Chernobyl (which had *no* containment building) wouldn't have been nearly as bad. Compared to modern containment buildings though, Mark 1 isn't even *last* generation; it's outright obsolete.

Re:Step 2. (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 4 months ago | (#46784469)

The containment system at Fukushima wasn't even close to modern, yet it did a pretty good job anyhow.

Are we talking about the same Fukushima where one core is still missing and radioactive seawater is believed to be flowing out of the site on an ongoing basis?

Re:Step 2. (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46784505)

People are so terrified of previous generation nuclear technology that they're not willing to even look at what an actual modern reactor would offer. It's like dragging up the combat specs of a Sopwith Camel and claiming that there's no place for aircraft in modern warfare.

Re:Step 2. (4, Insightful)

psyclone (187154) | about 4 months ago | (#46784585)

While that sentiment is accurate, no one wants to pay for decommissioning old reactors [slashdot.org] . Say we build a bunch of modern reactors, in 50 years will anyone want to pay for decommissioning them?

Re:Step 2. (4, Interesting)

MightyYar (622222) | about 4 months ago | (#46784689)

Make them finance the decommissioning at build time. I believe they did this in the 70s with Vermont Yankee, though clearly they screwed up. Presumably we can do better with the actuarial stuff now that some of these older plants are shutting down.

The main problem is that no one can justify building one right now. Hell, it is hard to justify the _operation_ of one. Natural gas is cheap, and even coal plants are shutting down because they cannot compete.

We have them already. (5, Insightful)

The123king (2395060) | about 4 months ago | (#46783819)

They power nuclear subs, nuclear icebreakers etc. Stick a transformer on it and connect it to the grid, Bingo, floating nuclear power plant.

Re:We have them already. (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 4 months ago | (#46783829)

Those are tiny next to land based nuke plants.

Re:We have them already. (5, Interesting)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | about 4 months ago | (#46783853)

They power nuclear subs, nuclear icebreakers etc. Stick a transformer on it and connect it to the grid, Bingo, floating nuclear power plant.

More to it than that. The overwhelming majority of the power for a nuclear sub/icebreaker/etc is used to make the props go roundy-roundy.

Only a very small part of that power goes to drive the generators (note that nuclear powered ships/subs HAVE been used to provide emergency power to shore installations, by the by).

And since the generators are sized for the amount of power needed by the boat/ship, you can't just push more steam through them to get more power.

Re:We have them already. (5, Interesting)

cbhacking (979169) | about 4 months ago | (#46783891)

Still, it's a reasonable proof-of-concept in many ways. Scaling it up and using a tethered platform instead of a mobile isn't a trivial engineering exercise, but we already know how to produce multi-GW nuclear plants. This gives us a good, safe place to put them. It also means they don't have to go sucking up precious river water for their heat exchangers and cooling towers; the ocean is as big a heat sink as we could hope for on Earth.

Re:We have them already. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46784113)

I thought they had big generators and electric props, like a diesel train

Re:We have them already. (2)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 4 months ago | (#46785467)

Those also sink. As do oil drilling platforms. Sure the tsunami or earthquake won't destroy them but that doesn't necessarily make them safer than if they were on land.

WHAT COULD GO WRONG? (4, Informative)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | about 4 months ago | (#46783827)

It's perfect! Unsinkable? Unthinkable!
No Homer will ever be allowed, and all the regulators will be objective and unbowed!

Once you build a floating reactor... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46784173)

...then you face a whole new risk profile. Storms, collisions with ships, corrosion due to the salt water. Fire is a greater danger in a platform environment. Crewing the platform is a greater challenge. If the platform is a floating moored structure then yes, it's essentially earthquake-proof. If however it uses a rigid seabed platform then this is not true. And it's my understanding that most shallow water oil rigs use the rigid stand design.

Of course you can design for this and the risks made acceptable. I'm just saying that it's not as simple as "floating reactor, all the problems go away!"

Agreed (5, Insightful)

Giant Electronic Bra (1229876) | about 4 months ago | (#46784411)

Objects floating in the ocean are EXPOSED, they are easily damaged by weather, can be attacked easily, are hard to secure, and VERY expensive to operate.

On top of all this the article is silly. Nobody at MIT has 'designed' a reactor, they just made a proposal that is barely more than just saying "build it on an oil rig!" with a few pictures. They talk about reactors anywhere from 50MW up to 1000MW which means basically "Gosh, you could float almost any nuclear reactor!". However it is not AT ALL clear that a 1,000 MW reactor would be made safe by passive seawater cooling in the event of say the whole thing sinking to the bottom of the ocean. Consider the effects of Fukushima COMBINED with the McCondo well blow-out... Its not a pretty picture to imagine a meltdown in 100 meters of water not too far offshore. Yes, the ocean would probably make this less totally disasterous than on land, but it might also be IMPOSSIBLE to quell or clean up. Statements on the lines of "it must be safe in the ocean" are exactly what goeth before a fall in engineering.

Anyway, it will seriously have to be studied, though I suspect others have done so already. As they said, the Russians have been working on this concept for years. That's one of the interesting things about it though, working on it for years, but where's the beef? Its probably not quite so easy as it sounds.

Re:WHAT COULD GO WRONG? (2)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 4 months ago | (#46784275)

No Homers but we can still have one.

Can't wait for nuclear sharknado to come out

Re:WHAT COULD GO WRONG? (1)

icebike (68054) | about 4 months ago | (#46784473)

It's perfect! Unsinkable? Unthinkable!
No Homer will ever be allowed, and all the regulators will be objective and unbowed!

Plus its SO much easier to deal with disasters at sea [al.com] and we have such a good track record in doing so.

Re:WHAT COULD GO WRONG? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46784547)

Titanic?

Instead we just poison the entire sea with Cesium (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46783831)

But that fixes the earthquake problem!

man them (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46783833)

Now they need to worry about torpedoes

Not a retarded idea. No way. (5, Insightful)

muecksteiner (102093) | about 4 months ago | (#46783867)

Compare the relative frequency of major hurricanes/typhoons to that of major earthquakes. Add to that the various potential problems that any floating structure has (springing a leak and sinking comes to mind here).

Then, consider that in Japan, the nuclear plant closest to the quake epicentre actually survived unscathed. Because the people designing it did not stick with the minimum legal specs for the seawall height like the geniuses at Fukushima had, but did some research on their own. And simply made the seawall much higher.

Conventional plants are not that bad, if they are designed by competent people. If you put them on barges, though, as these dudes are proposing, you are just adding to the potential failure modes, while not avoiding any that are impossible to handle. Not a good thing.

Re:Not a retarded idea. No way. (2)

Nethemas the Great (909900) | about 4 months ago | (#46784143)

The single largest contributor to nuclear reactor safety, or more precisely the lack thereof is that the overwhelming majority of the ones currently in operation were built decades ago from designs dating back 50+ years. The engineers of my grandparent's generation did wonderful work for their time, their understanding and their available technology. But to continue to rely upon BWRs [wikipedia.org] , especially ones built so long ago is the folly and the reason nuclear power gets the reputation it does.

Re:Not a retarded idea. No way. (4, Interesting)

OneAhead (1495535) | about 4 months ago | (#46784159)

Because the people designing it did not stick with the minimum legal specs for the seawall height like the geniuses at Fukushima had, but did some research on their own. And simply made the seawall much higher.

Yeah, and then once the water came over the seawall, the inevitable mayhem was exacerbated by:
* A lot of the electrical equipment needed to get the pumps up-and-running again being under the waterline and not sealed, so flooded and water-damaged
* The backup generators being placed in a vulnerable position
* The containment being an obsolete design, based on engineering principles that have long been discredited (but hey, there are many of those still up and running in the USA)
* Common "bugfixes" to mitigate some of the known weaknesses of the design (valves and stuff) not being implemented
* The spent fuel pools not being very well contained, and pretty full (endemic in the industry)

Hindsight is 20/20, but my point is, the industry can be made a whole lot safer just with some simple fixes, not to even mention newer designs that have passive cooling capabilities. If it would not have been dismissing its critics for decades, something this accident would never have been this bad, and the industry's future would not be threatened by public outrage. In line with what parent said, Fukushima Daiichi comes close to a "man-made disaster".

Conventional plants are not that bad, if they are designed by competent people. If you put them on barges, though, as these dudes are proposing, you are just adding to the potential failure modes, while not avoiding any that are impossible to handle. Not a good thing.

To be honest, TFA is a lot better thought-out than a nuclear-plant-on-a-barge, but even so, it remains a monstrosity that gives me the creeps just looking at the CGI.

Re:Not a retarded idea. No way. (1)

Maury Markowitz (452832) | about 4 months ago | (#46784239)

> Fukushima Daiichi comes close to a "man-made disaster".

Not close, entirely. Every one of those reactors could have been safely shut down except for man-made decisions that added to the problems.

Reactor 1, for instance, would almost certainly not have melted down if the isolation condenser had been turned on and left on through the entire event. But the operators started second guessing themselves, and turned it off thinking it was out of water. Not that running out of water was a bad thing, you see they imagined that if it did run out of water that the tubes would melt and vent gas, so they turned if off. Yet nothing of the sort would have happened, and the instructions clearly say never turn it off again.

Of course this or any number of other decisions could have caused the same end story. Which is the whole problem.

There is a bigger problem (1)

Giant Electronic Bra (1229876) | about 4 months ago | (#46784459)

The bigger problem is that ALL REACTORS ARE RUN BY HUMANS and the track record for their response to major disasters is not great. Sometimes people do the right thing, in fact most of the time, but many opportunities exist for disaster, and a statistically significant amount of the time responses fail. Furthermore there will always be greedy and unmotivated operators cutting costs like TEPCO. I have no reason to believe that Entergy for instance (a major US operator of nuclear power plants) is any better than TEPCO, or regulated any better either. Is it thus not just a matter of time before we have Fukushima in the US? Probably. Its not clear that building a whole bunch of AP1000's or MSRs or whatever will materially improve that situation. It will just create greater complacency resulting in even worse preparedness. Its inherent in the system.

Should or maybe not (1)

xdor (1218206) | about 4 months ago | (#46784655)

I actually like the concept a lot. But I agree that there is some potential for fallout here:

Having a replacement for Fukushima is one thing, but a world of these going wrong could be a real problem. A majority of the world's oxygen comes from phytoplankton in the ocean: killing them in mass via radioactive leaks might actually create a credible climate disaster.

Not likely that all of the world's reactors would start spilling simultaneously, but the only thing about this that gives me pause. Otherwise, this is a really great idea.

Sounds like a plan. (0)

SeaFox (739806) | about 4 months ago | (#46783887)

Meanwhile, the biggest issue that faces most nuclear plants under emergency conditions — overheating and potential meltdown, as happened at Fukushima, Chernobyl, and Three Mile Island — would be virtually impossible at sea.

Yeah, it will just melt down through the containment vessel and dump the fuel slag into the ocean instead. No problem!

Re:Sounds like a plan. (1)

nobuddy (952985) | about 4 months ago | (#46783995)

Or, instead of spouting off in ignorance, you could read the article.

"Meanwhile, the biggest issue that faces most nuclear plants under emergency conditions â" overheating and potential meltdown, as happened at Fukushima, Chernobyl, and Three Mile Island â" would be virtually impossible at sea, Buongiorno says: âoeItâ(TM)s very close to the ocean, which is essentially an infinite heat sink, so itâ(TM)s possible to do cooling passively, with no intervention. The reactor containment itself is essentially underwater.â

Re:Sounds like a plan. (1)

mmell (832646) | about 4 months ago | (#46784089)

Okay, so I read it. What are they going to do to ensure that the system is not damaged during the event which results in it floating away? The proposal certainly decreases the risk of such damage - but in the event that any reactor is both damaged and unmoored by the earthquake, the impact of the disaster is now essentially global in scope.

When it comes to nuclear power, we can't afford to think in terms of probability. We have to think in terms of possibility. There will always be unacceptable consequences to the catastrophic failure of a nuclear power generating facility, so we're faced with a balancing act. I believe the added dangers outweigh the added benefits.

Re:Sounds like a plan. (1)

Nethemas the Great (909900) | about 4 months ago | (#46784181)

Perhaps, but the design is still somewhat myopic. It solves one problem but leaves open others. The world's oceans for instance, make for the one of the best conveyors of leaked radioactive material. To my view at least they would also be far more prone to weather related disasters even if they weren't as affected by seismic events--though I'm not really sure how they're an improvement with respect to Tsunami and rogue waves.

Re:Sounds like a plan. (2)

Macman408 (1308925) | about 4 months ago | (#46784287)

I'm just picturing what happens when you mix the best parts of Deepwater Horizon with the best parts of Fukushima... It doesn't conjure a great image. This would definitely face an uphill PR battle, at the very least.

super-intelegent radioactive Dolphins (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46783897)

After years of use, super-intelegent radioactive Dolphins take over the world!

Re:super-intelegent radioactive Dolphins (1)

macbeth66 (204889) | about 4 months ago | (#46785395)

They're leaving. And have thanked us for all the fish.

nice (2)

hamburger lady (218108) | about 4 months ago | (#46783903)

then a huge rogue wave hits it. aw shiiiiiiiiiiit

One Word: Hurricanes (1)

xevioso (598654) | about 4 months ago | (#46783923)

While it might be moored out at sea, it would have to be built in a much different way to avoid the possible dangers from a hurricane tipping it over or making it unstable.

Does the name 'Titanic' ring any bells? (1, Insightful)

mmell (832646) | about 4 months ago | (#46783949)

She was unsinkable - right up until she sank. So when this platform gets floated off its mooring by a tsunami or whatever, how will we be sure it doesn't sustain damage sufficient to cause it to sink?

Of course, it might save a couple hundred square miles of land from being contaminated - but contaminating thousands of square miles of ocean doesn't seem preferable to me.

Re:Does the name 'Titanic' ring any bells? (1)

The123king (2395060) | about 4 months ago | (#46784111)

Or more to the point, what happens if it breaks its moorings and floats up onto a beach? It's easy to pump out oil from a grounded supertanker. Removing a nuclear reactor is a whole new kettle of fish

Re:Does the name 'Titanic' ring any bells? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46784373)

I'm not sure how it could contaminate thousands of square miles of ocean in any meaningful way. The place is full of radioactives already anyway and the dilution factor over such a vast area is enormous, especially when one realizes that in the ocean it wouldn't all sit in one layer, but dilute through the entire water column over time. Meaning the concentration would quickly become quite meaningless. (This also happened with some known radioactive spills. If something nearby stores it, some might remain behind for a bit, but mostly most of it just effectively disappears)

No, if it's just leaking in to the ocean, I'd only be worried about the local area, where the concentration is perhaps still some what high, and only for a limited time. Ultimately the ocean is going to dilute it away to nothing after all.

Not to say that there aren't plenty of question for disaster scenarios though, what damage could it do in the surrounding area if it sank. Would the reactor breach? Or would it sit on the bottom unbroken? How would you recover it? Is it vulnerable to earthquakes if it's on the bottom when one strikes? How quick might the ocean corrode containment and how long might it leak? What exactly would the most likely leak profile do? Where did you site it? Hopefully not on a steep sea slope. What is a hurricane/cyclone strikes? And is that really less stress on the structure then a major Earthquake?

No need to over state the radioactive threat, the direct immediate ones are significat enough to make you wonder if it's cost effective already.

Waste? (0)

Moof123 (1292134) | about 4 months ago | (#46783951)

Doesn't matter where you stick them, I have yet to see a good and permanent waste solution. I expect that at some point (maybe hundreds of years from now) we will have our Lucille Ball moment where we just can't figure out where to stick new waste once enough accidents at existing "permanent" dumps render them unsafe for further dumping, and steadily more wary residents go all NIMBY over future plans.

Maybe I missed the moment where we figured out how to really neutralize the spent crap and not just bury it for the next guy to figure out?

Given other renewable options, I would rather see fossil fuel taxed more to capture their negative externalities, and nuclear's true subsidies removed so there could be a fairer fight for other solutions (more molten salt storage, more solar, more wind, more proper grid design, more innovative load leveling, etc).

Re:Waste? (3, Interesting)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 4 months ago | (#46784017)

You missed it. Reprocessing.

Re:Waste? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46784145)

Yeah, but no [wikipedia.org] .

The ongoing controversy over high-level nuclear waste disposal is a major constraint on the nuclear power’s global expansion. Most scientists agree that the main proposed long-term solution is deep geological burial, either in a mine or a deep borehole. However, almost six decades after commercial nuclear energy began, not a single government has succeeded in opening such a repository for civilian high-level nuclear waste. Reprocessing or recycling spent nuclear fuel options already available or under active development still generate waste and so are not a total solution. Deep geological burial remains the only responsible way to deal with high-level nuclear waste.

Re:Waste? (4, Informative)

nobuddy (952985) | about 4 months ago | (#46784043)

We could stop wasting the fuel you call waste, and using it completely instead. What we do now is like bringing in oil, burning off the diesel and ignoring the gasoline, kerosene, and all the other fuels it contains.

http://www.nei.org/Issues-Poli... [nei.org]

On the other hand, thorium reactors are even more efficient, and the leftover is nearly inert.

Re:Waste? (0)

Chas (5144) | about 4 months ago | (#46784065)

It's called "reprocessing".

"Spent" nuclear fuel can be reused many, many MANY times if it is reprocessed properly.

At that point, spent fuel "waste" becomes a non-issue.

Re:Waste? (2)

MrKaos (858439) | about 4 months ago | (#46784257)

It's called "reprocessing".

"Spent" nuclear fuel can be reused many, many MANY times if it is reprocessed properly.

At that point, spent fuel "waste" becomes a non-issue.

Except that it's not been done. When Dixie Lee Ray was the head of the Atomic Energy Commission he proclaimed that the disposal of nuclear fuel would be “the greatest non-problem in history” and would be accomplished by 1985, yet here we are almost thirty years past that date and still there is no High level waste disposal site anywhere. The closest anyone has come is the Swiss and even there project is a multi-decade test project and extremely expensive.

As for burner reactor technology, such as IFR, there are no materials technologies to support a plutonium economy.

Re:Waste? (4, Interesting)

bigpat (158134) | about 4 months ago | (#46784659)

And it is still a non-issue. When it is 30 years later and you can still store it on-site then it is not a lot of waste. Compare that to any other energy source, the amount of toxic waste, even solar panel manufacturing and you have your answer.

Re:Waste? (0)

Moof123 (1292134) | about 4 months ago | (#46785251)

I'll take nasty coal ash over old fuel rods, ton for ton, in my backyard ANY day.

Till someone shows me a significant percentage of the 29 kilotons of spent crap done away with in some reasonable fashion, I just don't see more nuclear reactors being the answer.

You can point at the crazy US all you want, but I have not heard of ANY country who has gotten it figured out beyond the current "store and pray" approach.

Re:Waste? (3, Informative)

Applehu Akbar (2968043) | about 4 months ago | (#46784775)

Reprocessing has not been done because Peanuthead declared it to be illegal. Meanwhile there is no rush to reprocess because new fuels is so cheap from bot mined supply and recycled from Cold War weapons through the Megatons to Megawatts program. While we wait for reprocessing to get cheaper and fuel to get more expensive, there's storage at Yucca Mountain, which is finished and waiting to be opened.

Re:Waste? (1)

Chas (5144) | about 4 months ago | (#46785095)

That's just it. Yucca Mountain was never finished and will never be opened.

It was a pork project and a boondoggle from the word go.

Re:Waste? (1)

Applehu Akbar (2968043) | about 4 months ago | (#46785357)

You're assuming that no Republican will ever be elected again and that Harry Reid will live forever?

Economics is the problem (1)

Giant Electronic Bra (1229876) | about 4 months ago | (#46784869)

Reprocessing and breeding are dirty and VERY VERY EXPENSIVE technologies. They will never compete with mining natural uranium out of the ground until most of that uranium is gone, at which point only if we have a LOT of reactors will it even then be worth it. Sadly by that point we will have HAD to get rid of most of the waste we could reprocess since it will simply be insane to keep that much of it around on the off chance we decide to do it. What this means is that ironically it will never be cost-effective to reprocess fuel at any time, now or in the future. The only way would be a massive up front expenditure of money and the result would only be nuclear power that is 2x more expensive than it already is, not much of a bargain.

Thorium may well work, but the problem is we're a good long ways from building the type of reactor that we can put it in and burn all the fuel down (just using it in existing LWRs doesn't provide much benefit). Even with massive funding these reactors won't really come on line for 30 years, maybe more like 40 realistically. That puts them out to 2048-2058 time frame. Even LWRs like AP1000 won't be online for 10 years. Its not even clear they will be competitive with SOLAR by then, and they lose to wind NOW.

Re:Economics is the problem (2)

Chas (5144) | about 4 months ago | (#46785129)

Exactly how dirty and expensive is it? The French have been doing it for how long now?

That's why their waste containment facility FOR THEIR WHOLE COUNTRY is a small room with a vaulted floor.

As for "competing with solar and wind".

You're right, they're not going to be competitive.

You know why?

BECAUSE THERE'S NO COMPETITION!

Again, you CANNOT (and I will repeat for emphasis) CANNOT use solar OR wind power as your baseline power source. They aren't dependable sources. Anyone telling you they are is selling natural gas or some sort of petroleum product.

Nuclear IS a dependable, steady source that infrastructure engineers can PLAN for.

And the only reason nuclear has any sort of price comparison to solar or wind to begin with is the fact that, under the guidance of enviro-nuts, they've basically tarriffed the entire process, from proposition through decomission into the stratosphere. Require the kinds of multi-billion dollar investments (see bribes) for wind or solar plants that are now required for nuclear and watch the price of those options skyrocket too.

Re:Waste? (2)

Chas (5144) | about 4 months ago | (#46785083)

Right, it hasn't been done because a bunch of environmentalist morons have forestalled any reasonable measures of fuel reprocessing by invoking the "proliferation" boogeyman.

Yeah. Disposal is a non-starter. And should never have been pursued the way it was. Why? Because NOBODY wants that stuff in their back yard. They don't care HOW safe it is.

But, again, the dueling environmental agendas have basically left the fuel with no place to go. So it basically sits in containment casks out in back parking lots and the like.

As for "a plutonium economy". Why would it have to be solely plutonium? IFRs will burn plutonium, Uranium, Thorium and other fuels equally well. So you're burning stuff down until it's only going to be "hot" for a couple hundred years, rather than tens of thousands. And more, fully "spent" wastes burned in earlier generations of reactor can actually be used as fuel in later generations.

So we get rid of weapons-grade materials, and burn it down into something far far safer. And we get a buttload of power out of it at the same time.

How the hell isn't that a Win-Win-Win scenario?

Oh yeah, because no matter what, some idiot bridgae is going to equate nuclear power with "it's a bomb".

Re:Waste? (1)

Blaskowicz (634489) | about 4 months ago | (#46784415)

How do the Strontium and Cesium go away with reprocessing? Maybe processing removes some useful and some harmless stuff from your waste stash and so you're slightly better off, but I fail to see where the issue of hazardous nuclear waste is actually dealt with.

In fact it's not even clear that reprocessing spent fuel is useful. You get more energy out of fuel, but the fuel is cheap and plentiful (and you need little of it). I'm glad that France is doing it, but just because maybe having that capacity and experience may be useful some day if we can transmute harmful elements by throwing fast neutrons at them or something.

Hey, I've got an even crazier idea . . . (1)

mmell (832646) | about 4 months ago | (#46783973)

How about we build nuclear reactors underground? The thing may get buried, but even that should help to contain rather than spread the contamination.

Just spitballing here. Feel free to flame away and tell me all the reasons why this can't ever be made to work. IANANE.

Re:Hey, I've got an even crazier idea . . . (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46784041)

subsurface water carries the contamination away, contaminating water supplies forever and at an ever increasing distance. yucca mountain was one of the rare places where that was not true.

Re:Hey, I've got an even crazier idea . . . (1)

mmell (832646) | about 4 months ago | (#46784121)

Damnit, you're right. Oh well.

Re:Hey, I've got an even crazier idea . . . (1)

MrKaos (858439) | about 4 months ago | (#46784301)

Damnit, you're right. Oh well.

No, the AC is wrong. Yucca mountain has ground water issues that affect the storage of the material. CSIRO research showed that groundwater issues are mitigated by granite storage which can capture the isotope in its structure. DOE itself called for 'defence in depth' and it's own report judged Yucca to be unsuitable as groundwater penetrated the facility in as little as 50 years.

Re:Hey, I've got an even crazier idea . . . (1)

Chas (5144) | about 4 months ago | (#46784081)

How about we build nuclear reactors underground? The thing may get buried, but even that should help to contain rather than spread the contamination.

Just spitballing here. Feel free to flame away and tell me all the reasons why this can't ever be made to work. IANANE.

It's not that crazy. A lot of the new small reactor designs call for burying them.

Re:Hey, I've got an even crazier idea . . . (1)

MrKaos (858439) | about 4 months ago | (#46784351)

How about we build nuclear reactors underground? The thing may get buried, but even that should help to contain rather than spread the contamination.

Just spitballing here. Feel free to flame away and tell me all the reasons why this can't ever be made to work. IANANE.

This was one of the main recommendations (amongst 30 or so) from a Nuclear industry panel (Westinghouse, General Electric, Bechtel, Sargent & Lundy, Northern States Power and Commonwealth Edison) commissioned by the NRC. These should have been included in standardised Nuclear power station designs like the AP-1000, however they made the plants more expensive.

NIMBO! (3, Funny)

mythosaz (572040) | about 4 months ago | (#46784007)

Not in my back ocean!

Re:NIMBO! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46784451)

You spelt orifice incorrectly

Already under construction in Russia (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46784009)

Russia is already constructing floating nuclear power stations [wikipedia.org] .

deepwater horizon didn't happen? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46784013)

didn't we just spend half a year trying to deal with with a broken oil platform?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deepwater_Horizon_oil_spill

Re:deepwater horizon didn't happen? (2)

Chas (5144) | about 4 months ago | (#46784107)

didn't we just spend half a year trying to deal with with a broken oil platform?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D... [wikipedia.org]

DH was a failure of a blowout prevention device. This essentially BLASTED the rig off the well, which continued to spew oil.

You're not going to have that sort of problem with a reactor.

Re:deepwater horizon didn't happen? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46784171)

spooky

Deepwater Horizon
-> Macondo Prospect
-> One Hundred Years of Solitude
-> Gabriel García Márquez

Re:deepwater horizon didn't happen? (1)

Chas (5144) | about 4 months ago | (#46785039)

Howso?

Unlike DH, a floating reactor has no hard-line connection to the sea floor that can be snapped the way the well head was.

It's basically soft anchored and just using subsurface water as a monster heatsink.

Re:deepwater horizon didn't happen? (1)

EzInKy (115248) | about 4 months ago | (#46785119)

Of course it happened, which is why BP will be chosen to head up this project.

If I was this plant's GM, I'd strut around saying: (1)

sandbagger (654585) | about 4 months ago | (#46784047)

Really, Mr Bond?

Virtually impossible (1)

MrKaos (858439) | about 4 months ago | (#46784059)

It was said that it's impossible for land based Nuclear reactors to melt down, so "virtually impossible" can't be impossible enough.

Re:Virtually impossible (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | about 4 months ago | (#46784853)

and we can one so bad it an China Syndrome

we've solved the over heaqting issue (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 4 months ago | (#46784071)

with modern design.
What about the issue of getting the electricity to shore.
Remember, when these reactors were design. plate tectonics was new.

why build expensive nuclear plants (1)

ozduo (2043408) | about 4 months ago | (#46784109)

when coal is plentiful and cheap! Plus can have an beneficial effect on climate (carbon particulate matter released cools climate, or carbon dioxide gas released increases water vapour in upper atmosphere which warms climate) Of course we will have to figure out if the climate is warming or cooling first. Ha Ha!

Couple problems (5, Informative)

Solandri (704621) | about 4 months ago | (#46784285)

Mind you, I am pro-nuclear.

Meanwhile, the biggest issue that faces most nuclear plants under emergency conditions â" overheating and potential meltdown, as happened at Fukushima, Chernobyl, and Three Mile Island â" would be virtually impossible at sea."

Simply being at sea doesn't prevent the cooling problem. Remember, Fukushima was right on the ocean. The problem is that the cooling system has to have at least two loops. An internal loop of coolant (usually water, though salt has also been used) actually travels inside the reactor. Consequently it picks up some residual radioactivity from being exposed to all those neutrons flying around. You cannot just use this single loop for cooling, or else you're releasing this radioactive coolant into the environment.

A second external loop of coolant cools the internal loop via a heat exchanger. This external loop picks up nowhere near as much radioactivity, and the coolant (water) is safe to dump back into the environment.

If it were just one loop, you could come up with a clever design using thermal expansion to make the water flow through it to provide passive cooling in the event of a pump failure. But with two loops (and the inner loop being closed), you're pretty much reliant on active pumping to remove heat from the reactor core. The problem at Fukushima was that power to these pumps failed, and backup generators designed specifically to supply power in that scenario were flooded and their fuel source contaminated.

I don't see how putting the plant on a floating platform helps in this scenario, unless you're willing to open up the primary cooling loop to the environment and just dump water straight into the reactor (with the resulting steam carrying both heat and radioactivity out). Which was pretty much what they ended up doing at Fukushima. If they'd done it before the cladding on the fuel rods melted, we'd only be dealing with a small amount of radioactive water (deuterium, tritium, etc) being released into the environment as steam, instead of fission byproducts being directly released. So I don't see how being by vs on the ocean makes any difference for this scenario.

Maybe you could design the steel containment sphere to act as a heat sink, allowing sufficient cooling when submerged? But the containment's primary job is to contain what happens inside. That's why it's a sphere - it encloses the largest volume for the least amount of material and surface area, and its mechanical behavior under stress are very easy to predict. This is precisely the opposite of what you want from a heat sink. You want the most surface area for a given enclosed volume. Which makes me suspect that the steel containment could only operate as a heat sink if you're willing to compromise its protective strength somewhat.

The other problem I see is that putting it out at sea hinders accessibility. Meaning more mundane events like a fire, which are trivial to handle on land, become much more problematic at sea.

Well, duh, anyone with a sim can see that. (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | about 4 months ago | (#46784291)

Everything I need to know about energy logistics I learned from Sim City 2000.

You put the plants / reactors away from the city, out in the water, so that pollution doesn't bother folks and if there's an explosion, nothing else catches on fire. The cost of maintaining the power lines is far less than additional rebuilding costs after a disaster strikes and the plant blows. I guess next they'll discover it's fucking egregiously foolish to zone schools and residential next to industrial plants. [wikipedia.org] In this case, they didn't even need a sim, they could just read a history book. [wikipedia.org]

Pirates? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46784339)

In the news Somali Pirates have hijacked a nuclear reactor...

Cyclone (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46784347)

Man has yet to build a vessel that can survive the worst nature has to offer. This is crazy.

Barnacles, etc.? (1)

Loopy (41728) | about 4 months ago | (#46784385)

Considering how badly infested stationary ocean objects can become with various types of sea life, and how much maintenance it takes to keep a small sailboat from corroding and suffering general mechanical failures due to both of the above, I wonder at the amount of maintenance required to keep one of these in operation.

Re:Barnacles, etc.? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46784719)

See, that's the genius of it! The radiation kills the sea life before it can attach...

Re:Barnacles, etc.? (1)

The Grim Reefer (1162755) | about 4 months ago | (#46785131)

See, that's the genius of it! The radiation kills the sea life before it can attach...

Or turns it into a giant rampaging lizard that destroys Tokyo.

Floating Nuclear Reactor (1)

PaddyM (45763) | about 4 months ago | (#46784393)

What could possibly go wrong?

http://www.cnn.com/2014/01/24/... [cnn.com]

Rat-infested nuclear Cherynobyl.

Rock From Outer Space (1)

turgid (580780) | about 4 months ago | (#46784399)

So what about Tsunamis? What if a giant rock or snowball from outerspace hits it at upwards of 17000 miles per hour?

Better not worry too much, just chill out to some smooth, rolling basslines from the 1970s [youtube.com] , man.

I think it's going ro be a long, long time...

Re:Rock From Outer Space (1)

The Grim Reefer (1162755) | about 4 months ago | (#46785163)

So what about Tsunamis? What if a giant rock or snowball from outerspace hits it at upwards of 17000 miles per hour?

I believe the tsunamis are why it's to be placed several miles off shore in 100 m of water, or more. At least that's what the summary said. As for the others, A giant rock colliding in the ocean, with or without the reactor, is going to be a pretty big problem. That's how we got the gulf of Mexico along with a possible planetary extinction event. You might as well be worried about the devil himself opening up a giant hole in the ground and swallowing the entire city you live in and bringing forth the apocalypse.

Where have I seen this design before? (1)

Tablizer (95088) | about 4 months ago | (#46784447)

Assume a large spherical radioactive cow...

Hurrincanes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46784453)

And how does this platform intend to deal with a cat 5 hurricane? Because, you know, that's what's going to hit something stationary at sea. A sunken nuclear reactor is surely not going to cause any damage. Nope, none.

If Fuckupshima had not been designed by idiots... (3, Insightful)

gweihir (88907) | about 4 months ago | (#46784541)

Like, say, placing the emergency generators on the hills right next to it, nothing bad would have happened. Of if they had spend the extra $100.000 that would have cost for hydrogen valves, the buildings would not have exploded.

The problem is not that nuclear cannot be made safe. The problem is that the people doing nuclear cannot make it safe. And as these are also the people doing waste storage, this will remain a serious issue for the next, say, 1 million years or so. The combination of greed and stupidity found in nuclear planners is absolutely staggering.

Floating Nuclear Power Plant ?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46784545)

This is Psychotic. There are other land-based designs that could not run away because the mass of material is to small and encapsulated in materials that provide a distance between the elements that is sufficient to extinguish a chain reaction when all cadmium rods are removed. How can you quantify the risks surrounding a floating platform. BOGUS.

lma in durham nc

Why? (2)

Mr. Jackson (207564) | about 4 months ago | (#46784583)

The Integral Fast Reactor (IFR) design (state of the art 1986) shuts down safely in the event of a sudden, complete power failure. It uses nuclear waste as fuel, reprocessing until there is orders of magnitude less long life nuclear waste than with a light water reactor, the design they propose to float. IFR is an inherently safer design that largely solves our nuclear waste problem. Why are we dreaming of ways to build more light water reactors?

Re:Why? (1)

dbIII (701233) | about 4 months ago | (#46785399)

What happened to the IFR is a very good example of the US nuclear industry eating it's own children and why you are not going to get anything as good as it without buying it from India or cleaning up government corruption.

Prototype to be built ... (1)

PPH (736903) | about 4 months ago | (#46784665)

... by Korean shipbuilder ...... Hmm. On second though .....

Research news now hitting senationalism (1)

recharged95 (782975) | about 4 months ago | (#46784871)

"would be virtually impossible at sea."

Ah, use of those famous last words I see......

Re:Research news now hitting senationalism (1)

The Grim Reefer (1162755) | about 4 months ago | (#46785169)

"would be virtually impossible at sea."

Ah, use of those famous last words I see......

It's unsinkable I tell you!

doesn't solve the basic design issue (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46784991)

The basic problem with existing reactors is that you need to use moderators and control rods to sow them down and keep dumping water on them to keep them from melting. So putting it out to sea doesn't really fix the issue; at worst case, it could sink to the ocean floor, rupture under pressure, and the core could sink through to China.

Besides, we already have safer designs that we can put on land. The Canadian "CANDU" reactor design requires a heavy water moderator to keep the nuclear reaction going; the fuel is low-enriched or unenriched, so if you drain out the heavy water, the reaction stops (or slows to a point where you have time to fix it or set up backup cooling and containment), thus avoiding almost all issues in natural disasters. They're even working on a next-gen version, but AECL apparently lacks the cool factor of MIT.

http://nuclearfaq.ca/

But what happens if things go wrong? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46785113)

But what happens if things go wrong? If something goes wrong and the reactor ruptures or melts down it would certainly make it easy for the radiation to disperse globally surrounded by the sea.

easy to solve: force private insurance on nuclear (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 months ago | (#46785319)

All nuclear plants are backstopped by the government in case of accident.
Just prohibit the government from backstopping nuclear plants, and force them to contract private insurance. Since any actuary worth anything will tell you that nuclear plants are uninsurable (the risk is simply too great, the cost of handling an accident too high), no plant, unless using a demonstrable safe design will be built anymore...

Safe behind the deepwater horizon? (1)

dbIII (701233) | about 4 months ago | (#46785387)

Another option to not run out of water is to just have the thing downhill from a large permanent lake.
Putting something out at sea and sacrificing containment for the sake of reliable cooling water seems to be ignoring that there is more than one possible mode of failure. It also means that the thing can never be mothballed but instead needs to be actively dismantled at the end of it's life - not a trivial task when there would be a great deal of radiation involved in many parts being demolished.
However what this thing DOES have going for it is a small reactor size which brings it in from being an utterly stupid suggestion to something that may just work if as much care is taken as is with the small military reactors - which probably removes it from commercial consideration without a few "shortcuts". IMHO the same small reactors on land with reliable cooling water are a far more sane idea.

Floating Reactors could be mobile (1)

John.Banister (1291556) | about 4 months ago | (#46785397)

One of the biggest expenses I hear about when someone is building a new nuclear reactor is the zillion lawsuits that spring up. I imagine a fair amount of these could be avoided if the physical structure was built in a different country from the one adding the fissile material. Or, even in the same country, people would be less likely to try to stop construction because if it's a good reactor and people stopped you from using it, you could probably sell it to someone else who is willing to use it. I imagine whoever works the kinks out of the reliable floating reactor construction process could have a nice ongoing construction business.
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