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A $200-Million Floating Nuclear Plant?

timothy posted about 8 years ago | from the nothing-can-go-wrong dept.


Roland Piquepaille writes "In 'A Floating Chernobyl?,' Popular Science reports that two Russian companies plan to build the world's first floating nuclear power plant to deliver cheap electricity to northern territories. The construction should start next year for a deployment in 2010. The huge barge will be home for two 60-megawatt nuclear reactors which will work until 2050... if everything works fine. It looks like a frightening idea, don't you think? But read more for additional details and pictures of this floating nuclear power plant."

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Safety (4, Informative)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | about 8 years ago | (#16446825)

Where else could you get an unlimited supply of coolant?

Hell, if this goes pear shaped, you could drop the core miles beneath the sea never to be seen again.

Re:Safety (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16446899)

Until people start bringing up fish the size of Submarines.

Re:Safety (3, Funny)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | about 8 years ago | (#16446917)

Food for all!

I wonder if they will find a use for all 3 eyes though?

Re:Safety (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16446939)

"Until people start bringing up fish the size of Submarines." Finally, a solution to fishery depletion.

Re:Safety (4, Insightful)

CRCulver (715279) | about 8 years ago | (#16446949)

I don't know why the author of the article suggests that floating nuclear power plants are a novel idea. Of course the U.S. Navy has had them for decades, and there are Russian nuclear-powered icebreakers that take civilian passengers. If you have US$18,000 to spend, you can travel to the freakin' North Pole [] on the Yamal

It won't be hard to get there soon. (1)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | about 8 years ago | (#16447147)

With the natural (or unnatural, doesn't really matter) ebb and flow of the climate, it might get pretty damn easy to get to the north pole without an icebreaker soon.

Re:Safety (2, Insightful)

Jahz (831343) | about 8 years ago | (#16447239)

I don't know why the author of the article suggests that floating nuclear power plants are a novel idea. Of course the U.S. Navy has had them for decades, and there are Russian nuclear-powered icebreakers that take civilian passengers. If you have US$18,000 to spend, you can travel to the freakin' North Pole on the Yamal

Umm... this is a slightly different scale of power generation. Those ships and submarines which are nuclear powered have really small reactors. The power (and more importantly pressure) generated in a small Navy sub reactor is "small" compared to this beast. We're talking about TWO full scale reactors on a barge.

While the reactor on a aircraft carrier might provide power for the 1000 crewmen and motors, etc, this scale vessel could power a city. Think about it... what if the government could keep one on reserve in the event of an extended blackout. Or better, what if we could anchor a nuclear barge 50 miles off a foreign shore to power troop deployments? Or to power parts of our enemies country after we take out all their power plants.

Re:Safety (5, Interesting)

MindStalker (22827) | about 8 years ago | (#16447295)

Google isn't helping me here. But from my understanding after the last San Franciso major earthquake that some nuclear vesseles were docked and hooked up to supply something like a fourth of the cities power.

Re:Safety (1)

balsy2001 (941953) | about 8 years ago | (#16447363)

I know this happened in charleston after a hurricane and would not suprise me.

Re:Safety (2, Insightful)

Duhavid (677874) | about 8 years ago | (#16447425)

I dont know about nuke, but USS Lexington ( CV2 )
powered Tacoma in 1929 for about a month.

here []

She had a turbo electric drive, so she could generate a lot of power.

Re:Safety (1)

mrmeval (662166) | about 8 years ago | (#16447411)

The author sounds like a nuke phobe. Russian needs power and a lot of it. They have vast untapped region of natural resources in that area and they need to utilize them to provide for their people and compete with the west. The west would benefit from this.

Re:Safety (3, Insightful)

macadamia_harold (947445) | about 8 years ago | (#16447253)

Hell, if this goes pear shaped, you could drop the core miles beneath the sea never to be seen again.

Well, never to be seen again except for the massive Radioactive Steam explosion [] .

Re:Safety (1)

KonoWatakushi (910213) | about 8 years ago | (#16447301)

Who needs an unlimited supply of coolant? What is necessary is a modern reactor design like the IFR [] ; if the cooling fails, the reaction stops. Much better than dropping runaway reactors into the sea.

What is with ideas like this, when far superior designs have been around for years?

Re:Safety (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16447369)

Hell, if this goes pear shaped, you could drop the core miles beneath the sea never to be seen again.

And look at all the benefits to the fishing industry. Glowing fish have got to be much easier to catch. Also imagine Salmon the size of Blue Whales. Okay so Tokyo is screwed but it's a small price to pay for really big glowing fish! The giant slabs of sushi should make up for loosing a couple of cities to radioactive monsters.

Re:Safety (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | about 8 years ago | (#16447453)

And Homer Simpson will be the safety inspector.

Re:Safety (1)

Salvance (1014001) | about 8 years ago | (#16447543)

An unlimited supply of coolant, and an unlimited supply of contaminable water. Most of the world's fish supply would be inedible for ages in case of a meltdown. This isn't like an oil spill where the oil floats and it's at least theoretically containable ... how do you contain something that would diffuse evenly? I wouldn't even trust the French or Germans if they built such a reactor - and they at least know what they're doing (technically speaking that is)!

Nuclear isn't necessarily scary (5, Informative)

selil (774924) | about 8 years ago | (#16446853)

Nuclear power isn't necessarily scarier than coal or oil fired furnaces doing the same thing. The critical issues of radioactivity have largely been fixed. Pebble Bed Reactors and other self monitoring technologies also don't produce waste product like other types of reactor.

Re:Nuclear isn't necessarily scary (2, Informative)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | about 8 years ago | (#16446989)

Pebble Bed Reactors and other self monitoring technologies also don't produce waste product like other types of reactor.
Yes, instead they convert unspent nuclear material into PR-atons, a mysterious form of matter than passes through everything except gullible brain material, a substance which they interact with causing delusions of security and wellbeing.

I'm not even going to bother linking to the Wikipedia article on PBRs as it's long since been pitted and scarred by the feuding and petty editing between the various factions in the nuclear power debate. What I will say is that pebble bed reactors do produce nuclear waste. Quite a lot as it turns out. But probably not as much as buring peat logs, or cows breaking wind or whatever else someone decides to bring up.

Quite frankly, I seriously doubt that nuclear power is even all that cheap anymore, once the cost of PR spreading FUD is factored in.

Re:Nuclear isn't necessarily scary (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16446997)

Nuclear power isn't necessarily scarier than coal or oil fired furnaces doing the same thing. The critical issues of radioactivity have largely been fixed. Pebble Bed Reactors and other self monitoring technologies also don't produce waste product like other types of reactor.


/ +1 insightful

Re:Nuclear Is Quite Scary (3, Informative)

Terrigena (782337) | about 8 years ago | (#16447197)

Anything nuclear will create waste, you are mistake. Pebble Bed reactors are designed to prevent catastrophic reactions, but these are still possible. A containment leak would allow the atmosphere within the reactor to reach temperatures high enough to melt the graphite moderating cuticle. Pebble bed reactors are not realistic in an age of terrorism, they produce more waste and the mechanised fuel handling is more likely to result in disaster (see Hamm-Uentrop, West Germany). Never mind the logistics of TRACKING each and every pebble from its birth to final resting place in yucca mountain (which is near a fault line). The problem of nuclear energy and its waste has not been solved. As long as waste remains on the planet, it is a threat. I have absolutely NO IDEA how anyone could claim that the problem of nuclear waste is no longer a problem. I think the only explanation is the radiation from too much time spent within the leaky storage facilities at hanford or eating potatoes growing near Chernobyl has gotten to you. Look no further than the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Eastern Washington (US). Our Federal government has done a good job of keeping this disaster under wraps for the most part. This is because the administration would like you to believe nuclear energy is safe, so that they can gain public support for the reintroduction of the technology to our energy production matrix.

Re:Nuclear Is Quite Scary (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16447259)

And bring down oil profits some more? I thought that the cuurent administration were all "big oil" types that wanted us paying $3.00+ per gallon to line their own pockets.

Be careful of your rhetoric. It could bite you in the ass.

Re:Nuclear Is Quite Scary (1)

Terrigena (782337) | about 8 years ago | (#16447361)

Your response is short sighted. The oil industry recognizes that with the rise of China and India, it must diversify. Our administration does favor the development of new nuclear facilities. My region of the country does not burn oil to generate electricity. Your understanding of the supply chain is...rhetoric.

Re:Nuclear Is Quite Scary (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16447387)

You'd be a lot more convincing if you actually stopped and took a breath every now and then.

Re:Nuclear isn't necessarily scary (5, Insightful)

OrangeTide (124937) | about 8 years ago | (#16447219)

"don't produce waste product like other types of reactor."

yes. they produce different sorts of waste products.

Nuclear power doesn't produce much waste, for the amount of energy you get out of it. But the little bit of waste it does produce is really really nasty. The waste is about 90% recyclable into more fissile material, but you need some sophisticated processing plants to do this. And transporting radioactive waste to an from a processing facility is extremely risky, which is why it is preferable to have an expensive power plant with all the processing facilities on site.

I prefer nuclear power over coal and oil. And the environmental impact of nuclear energy is smaller than that of a hydroelectric dam, discounting nuclear accidents, which you should never have. Hydrodams displace many animals and dramatically change the ecosystem for thousands of acres. Old nuclear reactors had pretty significant impact on the local environment too, such as warming of the river/lake/coast they sit on. this is bad, it can have all sorts of impacts on the reproductive cycles of many animals, as well as result in poisonous algae blooms. It is indeed possible to build reactors that are safe and have low environmental impact, they actually do exist.

There is no power source that you will make everyone happy. Crazy environmentalists don't like wind power (kills birds and rare bats), hydroelectric (disrupts the local ecology), coal and oil (nobody likes these), or nuclear (every power plant is a potential Chernobyl)

If oh-so-wonderful France can run 70% of its energy off nuclear power, then why can't the US? In the US we have a lot of lunatics who would rather have coal plants than nuclear plants. I'm assuming Russia, which has always been much more creative in nuclear technology than the US, that the only obstacle to nuclear power is coming up with the money to fund it.

Re:Nuclear isn't necessarily scary (1)

Terrigena (782337) | about 8 years ago | (#16447277)

Coming from a state that gets a huge portion of its electricity from hydro dams that have threatened so many species, I have to take issue with your assessment that these are worse than nuclear plants. Again, look at hanford. The Columbia river's tributaries are dammed. When the radiation from Hanford reaches the Columbia in a few hundred years, the damage those dams have done will look like minor incidents in comparison.

Re:Nuclear isn't necessarily scary (3, Informative)

dasunt (249686) | about 8 years ago | (#16447485)

I believe (and correct me if I'm wrong) that the really nasty waste tends to be really nasty for short periods of time -- years or decades. Radioactivity is energy, and materials that are highly radioactive are releasing a lot of energy at a rate it cannot sustain for a long period of time.

The low-level radiation tends to last for a lot longer, since it releases less energy.

A candle that burns twice as bright burns half as long.

This is also why nuclear power plants have cooling pools for nuclear waste -- for the first few years, the waste produces enough heat (energy) and radioactivity to make moving and storing much more difficult.

*cues "the more you know" music*

Btw, many nuclear wastes tend to be heavy metals, and thus are prone to causing heavy metal poisoning. But this seems to be often (purposely?) overlooked, since opponents of nuclear power seem to focus on the much more "scary" radioactivy, and proponents don't want to mention more downsides of nuclear power.

Re:Nuclear isn't necessarily scary (1)

Terrigena (782337) | about 8 years ago | (#16447497)

>Nuclear power doesn't produce much waste, for the amount of energy you get out of it. I think if we take into account how long that waste is around and that it cannot be safely sequestered at this point, we find that in proportion, nuclear power results in much more waste than other available technologies.

Re:Nuclear isn't necessarily scary (2, Insightful)

sbaker (47485) | about 8 years ago | (#16447251)

Yep - and the so-called 'Clean Coal' approach concentrates naturally occurring radioactivity to the extent that the waste produced by even the most modern coal fired power plants has comparable amounts of radioactivity to nuclear plants.

Nuclear power has problems - but they are all solvable within our technological reach. The problems of irreplacable fossil fuels combined with the bad consequences of dumping CO2 into the atmosphere are not in any way solvable with technologies we currently have - or even expect to have. Windmills, wave power, solar power , biofuels and others aren't likely to produce the quantity of power we expect to need over the coming years. Fusion looks cool - but we can't do it yet.

So whilst nuclear power is *HARD* - it has the huge benefit of not being *IMPOSSIBLE* like all of the other power sources we have.

Pirates? (2, Informative)

TiraX (967674) | about 8 years ago | (#16446857)

Maybe pirating can be a reborn and profitable proffesion again? yarr?

Re:Pirates! (1)

Harmonious Botch (921977) | about 8 years ago | (#16446945)

One arm for a cutlas, one to hold onto the rigging, one for the telescope, and one for me bottle of rum.

It could be worse (5, Informative)

solevita (967690) | about 8 years ago | (#16446859)

Nuclear disasters on ships waiting to happen are nothing new in that area of the world. Russia still maintains a policy of keeping nuclear waste onboard container ships in the Arctic Sea:

It looks like a frightening idea, don't you think? (4, Funny)

mgabrys_sf (951552) | about 8 years ago | (#16446861)


Both the US and Russian Navy have plenty of reactors online - and many of them power ships of some kind which float in water.

And here's the kicker - they're online - right now!

Oh nosies! Call Greenpeace!

Re:It looks like a frightening idea, don't you thi (2, Insightful)

TopSpin (753) | about 8 years ago | (#16447227)

Both the US and Russian Navy have plenty of reactors online

Naval reactors have a different design than civilian power reactors. They are smaller and require less frequent refueling events because they burn enriched Uranium and produce less average power. The safety record of US naval reactors is good primarily due to a high degree of training and discipline, and design uniformity over long periods. The Soviet navy experienced a number of serious failures.

A floating civilian reactor will probably not burn enriched Uranium, resulting is a much larger core that must be refueled frequently. That it's mounted on a barge will probably mean it has less containment than a traditional civilian power reactor. It will probably not enjoy the same level of discipline of operation.

I don't think one can extrapolate naval reactor safety to these large floating civilian reactors. Apples and oranges.

Hardly the first floating Nuclear Power Plant (5, Informative)

balsy2001 (941953) | about 8 years ago | (#16446865)

The US and Russian Navies have been doing this for 50 years! This is the first commercial venture to do it, but the military has done it safely and effectively. The US Navy has over 5500 reactor years of operations without a nulcear accident. Also, this is not the first time that power from these reactors has been put into the power grid. Any US Navy vessel that is in port and connected to shore power (which they almost always do in port) can and have provided electricity to the grid if needed. This was done in charleston after a huricane.

Re:Hardly the first floating Nuclear Power Plant (1)

dbIII (701233) | about 8 years ago | (#16446987)

This is the first commercial venture to do it, but the military has done it safely and effectively.

But not cheaply or efficiently by any stretch of the imagination - however that doesn't make it a bad idea. In remote areas it makes sense to use a variety of different power sources that would be considered stupid anywhere you can get transmission lines - so this is one place where nuclear can stand on its own merits without the silly "clean enough to brush your teeth with and too cheap to meter" lies we get from people that want to build 1950's style plants to fleece the taxpayer. You can also be sure that it will be a better plant than those designs - effort would have been put into research, development and engineering and not advertising campaigns.

No accidents?!? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16447139)

Quite the contrary (unless by "none" you meant "scores".) Among the accidents that have been made public:

A sodium-cooled reactor utilized aboard the USS Seawolf, the U.S.'s second nuclear submarine, was scuttled in 9,000 feet of water off the Delawre/Maryland coast. The reactor was plagued by persistent leaks in its steam system (caused by the corrosive nature of the sodium) and was later replaced with a more conventional model. The reactor is estimated to have contained 33,000 curies of radioactivity and is likely the largest single radioactive object ever dumped deliberately into the ocean. Subsequent attempts to locate the reactor proved to be futile.

October 1959
One man was killed and another three were seriously burned in the explosion and fire of a prototype reactor for the USS Triton at the Navy's training center in West Milton, New York. The Navy stated, "The explosion...was completely unrelated to the reactor or any of its principal auxiliary systems," but sources familiar with the operation claim that the high-pressure air flask which exploded was utilized to operate a critical back-up system in the event of a reactor emergency.

The USS Theodore Roosvelt was contaminated when radioactive waste from its demineralization system, blew back onton the ship after an attempt to dispose of the material at sea. This happened on other occasions as well with other ships (for example, the USS Guardfish in 1975).

10 April 1963
The nuclear submarine Thresher imploded during a test dive east of Boston, killing all 129 men aboard.

Radioactive coolant water may have been released by the USS Swordfish, which was moored at the time in Sasebo Harbor in Japan. According to one source, the incident was alleged by activists but a nearby Japanese government vessel failed to detect any such radiation leak. The purported incident was protested bitterly by the Japanese, with Premier Eisaku Sate warning that U.S. nuclear ships would no longer be allowed to call at Japanese ports unless their safety could be guaranteed.

21 May 1968
The U.S.S. Scorpion, a nuclear-powered attack submarine carrying two Mark 45 ASTOR torpedoes with nuclear warheads, sank mysteriously on this day. It was eventually photographed lying on the bottom of the ocean, where all ninety-nine of its crew were lost. Details of the accident remained classified until November 1993, when Navy reports revealed that the cause of the sinking was an accidental detonation of the conventional explosives in one of Scorpion's warheads.

14 January 1969
A series of explosions aboard the nuclear aircraft carrier Enterprise left 17 dead and 85 injured.

16 May 1969
The U.S.S. Guitarro, a $50 million nuclear submarine undergoing final fitting in San Francisco Bay, sank to the bottom as water poured into a forward compartment. A House Armed Services subcommittee later found the Navy guilty of "inexcusable carelessness" in connection with the event.

12 December 1971
Five hundred gallons of radioactive coolant water spilled into the Thames River near New London, Connecticut as it was being transferred from the submarine Dace to the sub tender Fulton.

October-November 1975
The USS Proteus, a disabled submarine tender, discharged significant amounts of radioactive coolant water into Guam's Apra Harbor. A geiger counter check of the harbor water near two public beaches measured 100 millirems/hour, fifty times the allowable dose.

22 May 1978
Up to 500 gallons of radioactive water was released when a valve was mistakenly opened aboard the USS Puffer near Puget Sound in Washington.

I'm tired of looking these up. There are actually several accidents per year, a major one every few years, and we are told about few of these. At least do the tiniest amount of research before you post.

- A former NUPOC.

Re:No accidents?!? (5, Insightful)

balsy2001 (941953) | about 8 years ago | (#16447351)

OK, I am actually a Naval Officer who designs the reactors (what NUPOC was to demanding). Those are not considered Reactor Accidents. A reactor accident is defined by a failure of the fuel system that releases significant amount of radioactivity into the environment. None of the accidents that you listed are due to a failure of the core and are therfore not REACTOR ACCIDENTS!!! Get your facts straight before you post!

Re:No accidents?!? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16447403)

Are you trying to be funny? Can you really not see how idiotic your post is? I'm sure the next reply will point it out quite nicely but I can't really do it justice. I'm laughing too hard.

over 60% of those are non-nuclear... (3, Interesting)

YesIAmAScript (886271) | about 8 years ago | (#16447353)

60% of these are non-nuclear, and some didn't even occur on ships.

You might save yourself some trouble if you only looked up relevant info.

Re:over 60% of those are non-nuclear... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16447397)

Not sure what you're talking about; all involved unitended radiation release from nuclear reactors aboard U.S. Navy ships and subs. It doesn't get any plainer than that.

Re:Hardly the first floating Nuclear Power Plant (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16447245)

You are 100% incorrect. Don't just make shit up and post it.

According to the DOE (, there have been more than 300 accidents of varying degrees of severity involving reactor containment amongst the U.S. Navy's nuclear sub and surface fleets. And these are just the ones they've copped to.

And you can find any number of references to Soviet nuclear accidents with this little search engine we like to call google.

I am not against nuclear power or this Russian project, but outright lies will neither allay the concerns of those opposed nor educate the uninformed. Shame on on you.

Re:Hardly the first floating Nuclear Power Plant (1)

balsy2001 (941953) | about 8 years ago | (#16447451)

This is not a lie. There is a fundamental difference between a reactor accident and unintentional release of radiation. Read my previous post on this.

Nothing new (0, Redundant)

MadEE (784327) | about 8 years ago | (#16446869)

Millitary ships have had Nuclear powerplants for years this isn't exactly new other then being bigger.

Re:Nothing new (3, Insightful)

balsy2001 (941953) | about 8 years ago | (#16446923)

These are not even that big. According to wiki ( lsion) the military has "Reactor sizes rang[ing] up to 190 MWt in the larger submarines and surface ships." The article is not clear weather the power rating is MWt (thermal) or MWe (electric) but even if it is electric the military reactors mentioned at wiki would still likely have equivalent electric output since the conversion from thermal to electric runs about 25%. Just for comparison the AP1000 is supposed to have 1000MW electric output.

Re:Nothing new (1)

Libertarian001 (453712) | about 8 years ago | (#16447109)

MWt (thermal). Most of the power generated goes to turning the screw(s), and that takes a LOT of power. Their electric output (from the Ships Service Turbo-Generator sets) isn't actually all that impressive (at least, not in terms of their output).

This from a former Navy Nuke. I may hate my government, but I still love my country. So no, I'm not going to give you actual numbers.

Re:Nothing new (1)

balsy2001 (941953) | about 8 years ago | (#16447205)

I design them so I won't give you numbers either. For the discussion I was just trying to put it into perspective outside of naval vessels (i.e., lets assume you take the screw off and replace the installed generators with efficient commercial ones). As you aptly pointed out on a navy vessel they have different goals from a commercial power plant.

Already been done? (0, Redundant)

Xyleene (874520) | about 8 years ago | (#16446875)

Don't submarines, aircraft carriers, and navy ships in general fit this description already?

Smaller scale I imagine but nonetheless...

Yes, it *can* be safe (1)

Goonie (8651) | about 8 years ago | (#16446877)

Considering that the US and Russian navies have operated floating nuclear reactors for many years, there's no particularly reason that a securely moored nuclear reactor couldn't also operate safely.

Whether this particular reactor is safe or not is another question, of course.

Ummm.... (0, Redundant)

Spazed (1013981) | about 8 years ago | (#16446881)

Don't we already have these? Nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers have been around for a while. The only difference here is they run a cable to the mainland to supply power, again nothing new.

floating?!? (0)

Viraptor (898832) | about 8 years ago | (#16446885)

I hope these aren't any northen countries near my country. Normal nuc. power plants are ok. But you don't want anything like that floating really...
Were there not enough oil leaks in recent years from transport ships, to show, that at currect tech level YOU SHOULD NOT UNDERESTIMATE WATER!? (or anything that is in it and can hit your ship hard enough...)
With any other thing I would say - go on - kill yourself. But now thay don't kill themselves only :/

Re:floating?!? (1)

balsy2001 (941953) | about 8 years ago | (#16446973)

There are major differences in the required design criteria for the nuclear industry than for the oil industry. That is why is takes years to get licence approval for a new reactor. It also takes years to get site approval. If done correctly there is nothing to worry about. See the many other posts about the US Navy's record.

Been Done Already (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16446887)

What do you call nuclear aircraft carriers and nuclear subs? This is just another varient with another purpose. I'd be more worried about all their aging and underfunded nuclear naval vessels than a new nuclear power-plant.

Wow! They ARE the first! (0, Redundant)

lancejjj (924211) | about 8 years ago | (#16446895)

two Russian companies plan to build the world's first floating nuclear power plant

Um, far from the first. See Nuclear Navy [] .

I would like to point out... (2, Insightful)

Exsam (768226) | about 8 years ago | (#16446897)

That the US already has several floating nuclear power plants and alot of submerged ones which all seem to function perfectly fine. I am refering to Aircraft Carriers and Nuclear Submarines. There is nothing wrong with a floating nuclear power plant as long as it is well maintained and stationed in a calm area so it is not damaged by bad weather. Obviously the writers of the article prefer to fear monger then look at the facts though.

So (1)

srchestnut (717652) | about 8 years ago | (#16446909)

Maybe it the first floating nuclear reactor to power something besides a ship but there are plenty of floating nuclear reactors. Check out [] - "The worlds finest nuclear powered aircraft carrier"

Re:So (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16447021)

"The worlds finest nuclear powered aircraft carrier"

Those who said that were smoking crack. As a former Navy Nuke I am fully aware that the Enterprise (aka the 'Exposureprise') was certainly a groundbreaking (seabreaking?) nuclear craft. And it is a fairly safe nuclear ship. But lets just say that there were a lot of lessons learned from this ship that the US Navy decided to fix with newer designs. Probably the finest nuclear aircraft carrier would by any of the more modern Nimitz class carriers. They were able to be built with decades of experience from Naval prototype reactors, submarine reactors, and of course shiploads of experience from the Enterprise.

I can think of something more frightening (2, Insightful)

amightywind (691887) | about 8 years ago | (#16446911)

It looks like a frightening idea, don't you think?

Not nearly as freightening as the reactors and fuel they provide for Iran.

USS Enterprise, Nimitz, etc (1)

TheFlyingGoat (161967) | about 8 years ago | (#16446913)

All US aircraft carriers since the USS Enterprise have had dual nuclear reactors. Granted, they have a great deal of weapons and other ships to keep them safe, but the idea of putting a nuclear reactor on water isn't really new. Sure, there are dangers, but there are dangers with ground-based nuclear reactors as well. It's just a matter of finding acceptable measures for preventing those dangers.

Re:USS Enterprise, Nimitz, etc (4, Informative)

LWATCDR (28044) | about 8 years ago | (#16446993)

Actually you are incorrect.
The Enterprise actually has 8 reactors! The Enterprise was so expensive that the next class of carriers where not The Kitty Hawk class had four ships in it. Two of them are still in service.
What everyone is forgetting is the US did build a floating reactor into an old Liberty ship. In the late sixties it was used in Panama.

Re:USS Enterprise, Nimitz, etc (5, Informative)

Libertarian001 (453712) | about 8 years ago | (#16447159)

The Big-E (my boat) has 8 reactors. That's not because they thought it was a good idea, but because it was a test-bed. Their are several different reactor and steam plants (GE and Westinghouse, different versions of each) on that ship. Those 8 reactors are comparable in output to the 2 used on all the Nimitz class CVNs.

To my knowledge, all US CVNs other than the Enterprise have just 2 reactors. IIRC, subs have just the one (but I wasn't a bubblehead, so don't quote me).

No, I didn't appreciate the Chernobyl reference. (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16446921)

Will it ever be possible to have a rational discussion about energy production?

Re:No, I didn't appreciate the Chernobyl reference (1)

FuturePastNow (836765) | about 8 years ago | (#16447323)

Not as long as we have Roland Piquepaille trolling for clicks, apparently.

Land-based power supply troubles? (2, Interesting)

chrisb33 (964639) | about 8 years ago | (#16446937)

An even bigger fear is that a nasty storm could cut the plant off from the land-based power supply required to run plant operations. Should emergency generators fail, says David Lochbaum, director of the Nuclear Safety Project at the Union of Concerned Scientists, a Chernobyl-like disaster could ensue. In a worst-case scenario, an overheated core could melt through the bottom of the barge and drop into the water, creating a radioactive steam explosion.
IANANP (I am not a nuclear physicist) but I was under the impression that fission chain reactions could always be stopped quickly by simply withdrawing the fuel rods. It seems like it shouldn't be impossible to build a fail-safe system that would stop the reaction if land-based power supplies were cut off.
I'm also confused as to why a land-based power supply is needed at all - isn't the plant producing more energy than it's taking? Why does it need any other power source?

Re:Land-based power supply troubles? (2, Informative)

balsy2001 (941953) | about 8 years ago | (#16447015)

Fuel rods are typically stationary. What moves are control rods, typically made of materials with high neutron cross sections like Hf. Reactors can also put nuclear poison into the reactor coolant to help reduce the reactivity of the core. You are correct about reactors (at least all of the ones I am familiar with) do have fail safe systems that shut down the reactor during an accident. They plant can produce all of the power it needs (just like navy vessels). Therefore, it needs no other power source.

Re:Land-based power supply troubles? (2, Informative)

X-rated Ouroboros (526150) | about 8 years ago | (#16447049)

In multi-core facilities, it's not uncommon to have power for the offline plants' coolant pumps supplied by the operating plant. I'm not aware of any nuclear power plant design that is not capable of being self-sustaining insofar as suppling it's own power loads while operating. If this is a single core design (haven't RTFA), you'd need shore power to keep the plant systems running when the reactor is shutdown for maintenance. Also, the fuel doesn't move. Control rods of neutron absorbing material are moved to control core reactivity.

Re:Land-based power supply troubles? (1)

afaik_ianal (918433) | about 8 years ago | (#16447065)

There's a safety reason why plants like to have external power (at least older ones - I'm not sure if this is still an issue on modern nuclear plants).

If a plant needs to be shut down quickly, they need to make sure the coolant still gets pumped around while it is cooling (otherwise you get hot spots in your coolant, which is obviously a bad thing).

Re:Land-based power supply troubles? (2, Informative)

Chayak (925733) | about 8 years ago | (#16447075)

That's technically incorrect... you don't withdraw the fuel rods. You lower the control rods. With modern reactors it's very hard to have them melt down as many will scram automatically if outside of set parameters. That and there is always ways to inject material into the primary coolant loop that will greatly impede fission esentially killing the reactor until it is flushed out. I can't go into very much detail on any of it but I served on one of those US underwater nuclear power plants for a number of years.

Re:Land-based power supply troubles? (2, Informative)

coobird (960609) | about 8 years ago | (#16447121)

The output of a nuclear reactor is controlled by inserting and withdrawing the control rods [] into the core, which controls the rate of the fission chain reaction by absorbing neutrons. (Absorbing the right number of neutrons is the key to keeping the reactor critial [] , where the fission events are allowed to run at a constant output, or subcritical where the chain reaction is suppressed.) The control rods are moved in and out of the reactor core using motors or other mechanisms, which usually require power.

A nuclear power plant itself needs power for the monitoring and operations of the systems that run the plant. Pumping the coolant in the cooling loops, moving the control rods in and out of the core, monitoring of the system status, and other tasks needed to run the plant, requires power.

A nuclear power plant is only producing electrical power when its stream turbines are running -- and there are times when the turbines aren't running such as during maintainance or testing, a time when the plant is referred to as being "offline." Even if the turbines aren't making power, the reactor core needs to be constantly cooled, as the radioactivity from the core (from the fissile fuel and fission products) gives off heat. Basically, at all times when the plant is still in operation (even if no power is being generated) the nuclear power plant needs power.

Re:Land-based power supply troubles? (1)

AK Marc (707885) | about 8 years ago | (#16447327)

I'm also confused as to why a land-based power supply is needed at all - isn't the plant producing more energy than it's taking? Why does it need any other power source?

I have been told that it is "easier" (from which I don't know if it's safer, cheaper, or what) to not try to skim power off the top. The reactor is pumping out lots of watts at high volts. Those are sent closer to the points of use before stepping them down. This wouldn't be the only place that does it. I've been to a nuclear reactor in TX that does the same thing. Though I didn't ask about the backup power setup. Also, as others have pointed out, in the case of a failure of the plant, having your power attached to it would cause problems as well, and the insulation between production and consumption probably does improve safety.

Re:Land-based power supply troubles? (1)

reeherj (472238) | about 8 years ago | (#16447473)

IANANP, but I was a chemistry major in college. A nuclear reaction is not like combustion, removing the fuel source doens't stop the reaction because the reaction actually takes place inside of the fuel rods themselves. The way you control the reaction is by lower/raising your control rods. Control rods absorb neutrons which are needed to keep the reaction going. Thus lowering the control rods slows the reaction and raising them speeds up the reaction (as far as I know fuel rods are not movable). Reactors (in the US anyway) are designed to operate such that if all control is lost (such as loosing all your power) then the control rods can no longer be held out of the reaction, and will be lowered by gravity, and theoretically stop the reactor.

Additionally, boronated water can be used to kill an out of control reaction and I believe that many reactors have tanks of boronated water on stand-by to flood the reactor with in the case of an out-of-control reaction.

Environmental Scaremongering (1)

locokamil (850008) | about 8 years ago | (#16446975)

It's not as if the navies of the world's superpowers haven't been building sea-worthy nuclear reactors for oh, I don't know, the last 50 years. To prevent nuclear disasters in the event that the ships carrying them are sunk, the reactors are specced so that they are able to withstand high pressures at the bottom of the ocean. I'm guessing that these reactors, apart from their novel location, won't be any more (or less) dangerous than their land based brethren. The only thing I'd be worried about is the standard of Russian nuclear engineering, and frankly, I'm not willing to extrapolate on its qualty from a one datapoint obtained from a single-- admittedly serious-- disaster. (Note: IANANE... I'd love to see some nuclear engineers weigh in).

Environmentalists, if they are objecting to this, should stop and take a good look at how hypocritical their position is. On one hand, they demand that economies cut reliance on fossil fuels, and on the other hand, they malign the only clean alternative that is available now. They can't have it both ways. Choose one or the other. And if you can't choose, shut the fsck up.

Re:Environmental Scaremongering (1)

balsy2001 (941953) | about 8 years ago | (#16447051)

The reactor vessels are water tight and withstand very high internal pressures. The reason the ocean doesn't crush them if they sink is because they are filled with water and since it is ~incompressible the water on the inside balances the forces.

In Soviet USA (1)

CounterZer0 (199086) | about 8 years ago | (#16446979)

We call these 'aircraft carriers' and 'submarines', and guard them with a whole squadron of aircraft :)
Is land really at that big of a premium in Russia?

Re:In Soviet USA (1)

balsy2001 (941953) | about 8 years ago | (#16447149)

The reason you would do this is so that you can have them be portable to very remote locations. Also, by building them in one location you can take advantage of economic scales, presuming that you are always building some of them. Another benefit is that you don't have to do a specific site design to account for local geograph (just check that the river/ocean is deep enough for the vessel). The last synergy is that when the core is depleted Just drive the boat home (probably using some deisel engines) and the nuclear power plant is gone and can be taken care of at a specialized shipyard/facility. The security issues are the similar for land based and ocean based reactors (you could argue that guarding a ship is more difficult because maybe Bin Ladden is training navy seal type frog men to attact). However, the ship can be moved if there is a credible threat.

floating=safe (1)

pizzach (1011925) | about 8 years ago | (#16447003)

I'm for a floating Nuclear reactor. It's harder to hit a moving target. long as the current position isn't posted online.

Re:floating=safe (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16447189)

from this sort of post we can see who sits here all day hitting "refresh" :P

i really should get round to registering, having lurked for over a year...

Ya Think? (1)

M0b1u5 (569472) | about 8 years ago | (#16447059)

It looks like a frightening idea, don't you think?
Only if you are a luddite who knows nothing about "nucular powah", reactor containment vessels, and infinite supply of coolant.

Scary? (5, Insightful)

robpoe (578975) | about 8 years ago | (#16447069)

Why is it scary?

With all the liberal imperialist environmental communists out there screaming because

1. Coal is a non-renewable energy source.
2. Oil is a non-renewable energy source.
3. Natural gas is a non-renewable energy souce.
4. Wave power is too ugly to be built (too lazy to Google for it but Kennedy / Kerry vetoed the idea because it was too close to THEIR vacataion home).
5. Water flow (river) is too unpredictable (and causes environmental damage when you flood blah blah blah).
6. Wind power is too noisy and it kills birdies.

What the hell else do we have?

Solar? Right. Who wants a backyard full of panels? Some people like to BAR-B-QUE in their back yards .. not worry about whether the kids are going to burn themselves (or throw a baseball through) the solar array..

I say .. lets build some nuclear power plants. Use the efficient safe designs (pebble bed) and .. OHMYGOSH .. recycle the fuel. Heck, even on Slashdot they posted a story about a new tech that might make the waste that much LESS radioactive..

Re:Scary? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16447157)

Wave power is too ugly to be built (too lazy to Google for it but Kennedy / Kerry vetoed the idea because it was too close to THEIR vacataion home).

Actually, they were against wind power because it looked ugly and was near expensive vacation homes.

Re:Scary? (1)

drgould (24404) | about 8 years ago | (#16447185)

4. Wave power is too ugly to be built (too lazy to Google for it but Kennedy / Kerry vetoed the idea because it was too close to THEIR vacataion home).

You mean the Nantucket Sound wind power project [] .

Re:Scary? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16447191)

"What the hell else do we have?"


Re:Scary? (1)

norkakn (102380) | about 8 years ago | (#16447213)

Nuclear to start. It's quick, easy and still pretty dirty. Add in a little solar and wind, where applicable, and really ramp up on biofuels. You're a bit outdated on what us liberal imperialist environmental communists want.

you are lazy... (1)

YesIAmAScript (886271) | about 8 years ago | (#16447311)

The wave power project you refer to was a wind power project, and Kennedy killed it, not Kennedy and Kerry.

Solar doesn't require your entire backyard. Well, if you have a house. If you have a house, it'll take a portion of your roof. If you are in an apartment, stacked up 30 floors high, well, it won't cut it.

Re:Scary? (1)

radtea (464814) | about 8 years ago | (#16447341)

I say .. lets build some nuclear power plants. Use the efficient safe designs (pebble bed) and .. OHMYGOSH .. recycle the fuel.

This is kinda like saying, "Let's solve all our software problems. All we need is some inherently safe language (Java) and...OHMYGOSH... Xtreme Programming!"

Engineering is about tradeoffs, and the tradeoffs for nuclear are not particularly good. It is a large up-front investment in an unproven technology (if we go the pebble-bed route) that has known economic issues (the small errors that plant operators are absolutely certain to make result in writing off that large up-front investment) and limited fuel supply. Reprossessing extends the fuel supply considerably, but at the cost of losing enough plutonium per year to make multiple bombs.

Why will we lose plutonium, you ask? Because no one has ever been able to do inventory control at the level required to ensure it is all kept track of properly. Engineering optimism is all very well, but the fact is that if we are moving tonnes of plutonium around we will not be able to keep track of it accurately enough to ensure that virtually none is diverted.

The tradeoffs involved in nuclear power are complex, and knee-jerk anti-nuclear idiots don't help the issue with their moronic "us-against-them/we-must-save-the-world" attitudes. But overall it is doubtful that nuclear power is the best investment in future energy, although if the worst global-warming scenarios are true then we should probably be building new nukes now.

Re:Scary? (1)

mattkime (8466) | about 8 years ago | (#16447503)

>>But overall it is doubtful that nuclear power is the best investment in future energy

Mind sharing what it is? If we use industry as any indication, its coal.

Re:Scary? (1)

balsy2001 (941953) | about 8 years ago | (#16447381)

The irony is that on top of this they want cheap electricity too!

American politicians are going to have a fit... (4, Funny)

creimer (824291) | about 8 years ago | (#16447083)

... when they see the "Made In North Korea" sticker on these reactors.

Article is misleading... (2, Informative)

Tavor (845700) | about 8 years ago | (#16447091)

A floating Chernobyl is unlikely.
Although these articles don't specify, it's likely the floating NPP (Nuclear Power Plant) will be based on the VVER design (which is inheriantly a lot more stable) as opposed to the RBMK that Chernobyl used. The RBMK [] design had a nasty design flaw, which the world became aware of in 1986 [] .

That being said, the RBMK design has been made much safer since the Soviet era, with many remaining reactors being decommissioned soon anyway. So yeah, apparently TFA's author didn't do their homework.

Huh? (1)

DramaGeek (806258) | about 8 years ago | (#16447105)

Maybe I'm overlooking something here, but what good does putting the reactor offshore do?

Re:Huh? (1)

RobertLTux (260313) | about 8 years ago | (#16447459)

1 you don't have to give up LAND to your power plant

2 it helps if you can float a power plant to a city when AOG , Kookladen or some thing else takes out the normal power plant

3 if its already mobile then when it starts to wear out you can
1 park a new one in the same bay
2 swap cables over
3 yank out the "nasty bits" and reload
4 profit !!!!

Cheap? (1)

Jack Sombra (948340) | about 8 years ago | (#16447173)

As the whole floating nuclear reactor "done before " is well covered above i will raise one concern i have about this...$200 million, maybe it's me but is that not like...very cheap? Having visions of "Safety measures? Bahh those cost to much, if something goes wrong we can just sink it"

Re:Cheap? (1)

balsy2001 (941953) | about 8 years ago | (#16447231)

Land based nuclear power plants cost billions to build. Navy vessels also cost billions to build, but they do a lot more than just make electricity.

Re:Cheap? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16447343)

this would depend on whichever company was funding the project, no? it would have to be a fairly well off supplier of cash and resources to be willing to sink 200m dollars. unless it was actually going to avoid an international scandal...

Floating nuclear plants right near my home already (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16447207)

I live in California. There are probably more than a dozen nuclear reactors floating in the bays of San Diego and up and down the coast here at any given time. How is this going to be different, other than that it is Russian made instead of US made? I realize, Russians don't put as much care into industrial safety as we do... but there are already Russian nuclear subs and aircraft carriers and whatever floating around. They aren't making Chernobyl-style (positive void coefficient) reactors anymore.

Pop Sci on Russian Floating Nuclear Plants (1)

thethibs (882667) | about 8 years ago | (#16447257)

This is from Popular Science, a magazine that treats anything new and not seen on The Jetsons as sinister (a scan of the other articles in the same issue reveals their foil hat view of science and technology).

What's frightening is that anyone on /. reads Pop Sci. Somebody get him a subscription to 2600.

Decentralized Power Generation is the Future (1)

Terrigena (782337) | about 8 years ago | (#16447419)

From a military perspective, having centralized electrical utilities makes absolutely no sense. Reactors have a big bullseye painted on them. The future is modular, easily deployed generation that can power a single home or a neighborhood. These support a manufacturing base (that translates directly to more jobs) and cap consumer expenditures. When the device has been paid for, they continue to benefit at little or no cost.

Cursing to the choir (1)

vuo (156163) | about 8 years ago | (#16447521)

... in contrast to preaching to the choir. How does the submitter think that the el-cheapo scare tactics are going to work with Slashdot readers, some of which are no doubt nuclear engineers?

But, to the point. In commercial reactors, water is used as a radiation shield. Floating a plant in radiation shield would be a sensible idea. In fact, if a meltdown was imminent, they could dump the reactor to the ocean, saving countless lives and preventing the widespread contamination like in a reactor on land. Furthermore, placing the plant far into the arctic territory, away from large population centers is also a good idea. Particularly with nuclear security inherited from the Soviets.
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