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MIT Engineers Propose Tsunami-Resistant Floating Nuclear Power Plants


xmui2gxe01aaquwztzpnThe reason why people are always reluctant when it comes to nuclear power is the fear of explosion. Although it is a source of large amounts of clean energy, a lot of resources go into maintaining and protecting the facilities from accidents.

Many still remember the incident in Chernobyl, or for sure have heard about it, and definitely everyone remembers what happened in Fukushima. And if in the former case the reason was pure human error, in the latter the disaster was triggered by a natural disaster. Now, scientists from MIT came up with a concept of a tsunami– and earthquake-resistant nuclear power plants. All we need is to make the facilities float.

The study was conducted by three of the greatest minds at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Professors Jacopo Buongiorno, Michael Golay, and Neil Todreas, in collaboration with engineers from MIT, University of Wisconsin as well as the offshore platform construction company ‘Chicago Bridge and Iron‘. The findings were presented at the Small Modular Reactors Symposium held by American Society of Mechanical Engineers this week in Washington, D.C.. They propose a concept of a floating nuclear power plant, which should be situated several miles offshore. The plant would also be fixed to the seafloor and connected to the nearby land using electric transmission lines that go underwater. This is a link to the video of their presentation.

The concept is not entirely new. Just a few months ago, the Russians announced the construction of their first ever floating nuclear power plant, Akademik Lomonosov,  but the difference here is that the MIT’s concept has enhanced safety features, making the floating power plants resistant to tsunamis and earthquakes. The plants would not be limited by size, meaning that they could be anywhere between 50-MW to 1,000 MW.

Placing floating nuclear power plants at sea has additional advantages, such as great distance from population centers, constant access to water for cooling, as well as much easier and cleaner decommissioning, Needless to say, the plants would still have to meet all necessary safety and security requirements that regular terrestrial plants are obliged to comply with.

The proposed idea was very well accepted by the attendees at the symposium. After all, the nuclear industry is under a lot of pressure to secure the facilities against the increasing risk and high chances of tsunami occurrences in the near future. Although the study is still at its conceptual stage, the authors are convinced that the such plants would work, as the expectations are reasonable and very realistic.

Image (c) MIT

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  1. i’m interested in the thorium laser process. Can you give me some references to that? Does it use unenriched Thorium?

  2. Molten salt thermal isotope reactors would be better. As you use plutonium 238 or hot radioactive waste to heat a working salt to in turn heat a fluid or run a Stirling engine. There is no meltdown and the nuclear decay is used instead of fission. The waste could also be sealed to keep it separated from the working fluids. 
    Also Laser power system used two lasers one solid state and the other iron vapour to accelerated the radioactive decay of thorium to make burst of heat to run a steam turbine. And since no waste is made other alpha rays it would be fool proof and would never melt down.


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