Tuesday, January 25, 2011

French plan nuclear power plants on the seafloor

In the world of interesting ideas, here's one we hadn't thought of: Put nuclear power plants in the nearshore ocean.

Leave it to the French, who produce 75% of their electricity from nuclear power, to advance this idea.

(Image: A representation of the Flexblue power plant, from the DCNS website, http://en.dcnsgroup.com.)

One presumes that the nukes they're discussing would be placed in the relatively calm waters of the Mediterranean. In Hawaiian waters, recent hurricanes have been shown to scour the ocean floor as much as 60 feet down, and cause significant impacts even deeper.

The French plan is for these plants to be tethered "a few kilometers from shore" in water 60 to 100 meters (2-300 feet, roughly) deep.

France is calling the new proposal Flexblue. The developer is the French firm DCNS, which builds nuclear submarines for the French Navy. It is working with nuclear power plant builder AREVA, French electric utility firm EDF and French government research firm CEA.

Their plan is to design a movable nuclear plant—in essence a giant, tethered, propellorless nuclear submarine—that delivers power to shore via cable. It could be lifted with air bags to the surface for maintenance. It would produce 50 to 250 megawatts.

The plant's hull would be 300 feet long, about 40 feet around and shaped like a giant oxygen bottle. It would be movable, but would not have its own propulsion. A special ship would be used to transport it. Here is the DCNS website outline of the project: .

For this concept to ever be considered for Hawai'i, developers would require an unprecedented level of community approval. That's because of this line in the Hawai'i State Constitution: No nuclear fission power plant shall be constructed or radioactive material disposed of in the State without the prior approval by a two-thirds vote in each house of the legislature.”

© Jan TenBruggencate 2011

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