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Self-Contained Landlocked Floating Nuclear Reactor

Disaster-resistant nuclear power
  [vote for,

This is a 'duh' Halfbake.

Today Japan announced that they will soon be permanently decommissioning the country's sole remaining nuclear power generator. This saddens me, because, unlike some people, I view nuclear reactors as relatively 'clean' and see the widespread public opposition to them as overly reactionary and based on small handful of high-profile incidents. This unwarranted public outcry leads to the elimination of existing reactors and overwhelming resistance to the development and implementation of emerging 3rd- and 4th-generation technologies, many of which promise dramatically increased efficiency coupled with the reduction or elimination of the risk of meltdown or release of harmful radiation.

The idea is simply to locate an entire 2nd-generation power plant on a large floating platform and to tether it (using very strong elastic mooring lines) at the center of a very wide and deep artificial reservoir. This tank will be isolated from other bodies of water and the local water table, preferably by simply locating it above the water table. It will have walls shielded with the same components found surrounding fuel rod containment pools. It will not be a part of the reactor's cooling system except under the most extreme circumstances (see below).

In the event of an earthquake, the floating powerplant rides out the waves like a ship on the open ocean; the tethers are adjusted to allow some freedom of motion without letting it get near the sides or capsize. If the earthquake harms the walls of the reservoir, the water will of course drain out, but the reactor will simply float down and come to rest on the bottom like a ship sitting in drydock. The wall rupture will be repaired, and the reactor will be re- floated.

In the event of a catastrophic internal failure (the much-dreaded 'China Syndrome'), appropriate emergency measures will be taken and the plant evacuated while the floating hull is scuttled. It will sink to the bottom of the reservoir, cooling and shielding the entire reactor long enough for a containment dome to be moved into place overhead and tightly sealed. Robotic submersibles will then be used to see what can be done to arrest or further contain the runaway reactor. If need be, the entire pit can even be sealed with lead-impregnated concrete or what have you.

Floating nuclear plants already exist; they sail the high seas every day, yet nobody seems to mind. Why not simply bring the technology ashore and stop all this irrational panic that threatens the use of a valuable transitional power source?

Alterother, May 05 2012

I Got Your Nuclear Reactor Right Here I_20Got_20Your_20Nu...ctor_20Right_20Here
[theircompetitor, May 05 2012]


       [theircomp], the 'bake in your link turned up in my pre- bake search (I think I'd seen it before anyway), but I thought about it for a while and decided that, because that 'bake and every link attached to it proposed something moored in the ocean rather than purpose-built and self-contained, that my own idea was different enough to stand alone. In retrospect, I do wish I'd linked to it myself in acknowledgement of prior art.   

       <later> Title changed to make the distinction more clear.
Alterother, May 05 2012

       [+] but I think we've discussed this before, possibly in an idea generated right after Japan, ie: use a landlocked body of water as shock absorber.   

       issa good idea.   

       There still needs to be redesign to allow for some acceleration forces, for instance if there's a high wind, stuff like that.
FlyingToaster, May 05 2012

       Or they could just make an agreement with canada to put plants up north. 90% of canadians dwell in the southernmost areas of our provinces, which thousands of kms of land going virtually unused. I imagine one could turn the top half of our country into a giant nuclear reactor and no one would ever be the wiser.
bob, May 05 2012

       A generous offer, but it raises the issue of transmission cost. The best place for a power plant is relatively near where the power will be consumed. This post is a feeble attempt to address the groundless NIMBYism that is keeping us from exploiting a lucrative existing technology, easing a terrible burden whilst developing whatever comes next.
Alterother, May 05 2012

       I agree that nuclear energy is the only long-term option available for night-time power generation.   

       However, the idea that we have anywhere near the technology to safely shield a broken reactor for the lifetime of the fuel rods is simply laughable. We think 100 years is a long time. The half-life of U235 is 704 million years!
UnaBubba, May 05 2012

       I would like to know where you are going to store the nuclear waste in your floating nuclear reactor? Are you going to shuttle out in a rubber dinghy to retrieve it? Also, those underwater nuclear reactors, better known as nuclear submarines, have their detractors, but what can you possibly do about it? The only kind of nuclear reactor that should be built is one that eats nuclear waste. I guess only the nuclear proponents are "rational" (even though we don't know what to do with the waste, and it should be included in the cost per kilowatt hour). Why is concern about nuclear energy considered "irrational" when cancers silently rise around even "correctly" functioning plants? Just because an idea seems like a "duh" idea, future generations may beg to differ. "Hey why did those idiots leave their mess for US to clean up?! Didn't they realize fool-proof, terrorist-proof and cost-effective nuclear energy was a pipe dream?"
EdisonEnvy, May 07 2012

       As for storage, it will be handled exactly with a non- floating plant. This is an entire nuclear power generation facility, only built on a barge and floating in a giant radiation-shielded swimming pool. Under non-emergency circumstances, a large retractable gangway would allow access; any spent rods that need to be relocated will be driven off with trucks.   

       Yes, a breeder-reactor would be ideal. I'm all for coprophagic nuke plants.   

       My advocacy of nuclear power is as a transitional measure. It's not a great option, but it's the best one we have right now, so why not use the hell out of it while we're coming up with something better, instead of letting a few isolated incidents that have been blown way out of proportion by sensationalist press and uninformed NIMBYers put us back in the petrocarbon stone age? Nuclear waste is nasty shit, but there's not anywhere near as much of it generated per Mw as there is soot and CO2 from coal or gas turbines. Furthermore, it's perfectly containable. I've performed repairs on a boxcar loaded with spent fuel; I spent 7 hours within 10' of properly shielded uranium, and there wasn't a trace on my dosimeter.   

       I see nuclear power as a much-maligned and underutilized means to an end, not as an end itself. This 'bake is just a proposal for making it a little safer. Maybe.
Alterother, May 07 2012


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