Offshore Floating Nuclear Plant: How to Enable a Large Nuclear Energy Expansion by MIT Floating Reactor
Offshore floating nuclear power plant concept achieves unprecedented levels of safety and economics, enabling massive nuclear energy growth
We propose a new Offshore Floating Nuclear Plant (OFNP) concept that reduces the cost of nuclear electricity and achieves unprecedented levels of safety. It does so through innovative design features that ensure indefinite cooling of the nuclear fuel (thus reducing the likelihood of accidents with fuel damage and radionuclide release), and eliminate the need for land evacuation, should such an accident actually occur. Furthermore, the OFNP concept changes the economic paradigm of nuclear energy through radical innovations in the way nuclear plants are built, operated and decommissioned.
The OFNP design creatively builds on two established technologies, i.e. light water reactors and floating oil/gas platforms. The plant has the following features:
- It is entirely built in a shipyard and then towed to the site, which cuts construction cost and time, and enhances quality;
- Quick and cost-effective decommissioning is also performed in a shipyard (U.S. submarine and aircraft carrier model), so that the plant site is returned to “green field” conditions immediately;
- The plant is moored 5-10 miles offshore, in relatively deep water (~100 m), which eliminates earthquake and tsunami concerns;
- The nuclear island is under the water line, with easy access to the ocean heat sink. Therefore, indefinite decay heat removal can be assured without external intervention;
- The plant is connected to the grid via an AC transmission line such that the only structure on land is the electric switchyard. Land usage is reduced to essentially zero;
- The crews operate in monthly or semi-monthly shifts with onboard living quarters, like on oil/gas platforms;
- OFNP is a flexible concept, which can accommodate reactors from <100 to >1000 MW.
Category of the action
Reducing emissions from electric power sector.
What actions do you propose?
Initial focus in the development of the offshore floating nuclear plant concept should be on major go/no-go questions: Can a highly-modularized design be developed for the floating plant that would significantly reduce the capital costs (on a per unit energy generated) and construction times typical of large terrestrial plants? Can an offshore floating nuclear plant survive extreme weather without damage? How to cope with an underwater terrorist attack or collision with a large ship? What would be the consequences of radioactivity releases from an offshore floating plant during a hypothetical severe accident?
Once these questions are satisfactorily resolved, a detailed design of the offshore nuclear plant would be conducted, followed by design certification by the nuclear regulator, construction of a prototype and finally commercialization on a large scale. Government support in the design and certification phases of the program would be necessary.
Who will take these actions?
Initial conceptual design of offshore floating plant, including platform and nuclear island will be conducted by the MIT research team with external advisors from the oil/gas offshore and shipbuilding industry. Development and construction of a prototype plant will be performed by a consortium comprising a nuclear reactor vendor, an offshore floating platform designer and a shipyard. Design certification and plant license will be issued by the nuclear regulator, e.g. NRC in the US.
Where will these actions be taken?
The offshore floating nuclear power plant would utilize the existing global supply chain for the nuclear industry and oil/gas offshore rig industry. This will be a plant for the global market.
How much will emissions be reduced or sequestered vs. business as usual levels?
The offshore nuclear plant concept is inherently modular, so production can be scaled up rapidly. One could envision hundreds of GW installed within 20-25 years. Since nuclear is essentially emission free, the offshore floating nuclear plant would eliminate all of the carbon emissions from the fossil alternatives it replaces. Exact emission reduction figures will depend on the energy mix of the countries in which the offshore floating plants will be deployed
What are other key benefits?
- Siting flexibility: the offshore floating nuclear plant can be moved during its lifetime to serve different markets.
- The plant can be decommissioned in a centralized facility (US sub and carrier model), so the site will be returned to "green field" very rapidly.
- Mass production of the offshore floating nuclear power plant may revitalize the shipbuilding industry in the US.
What are the proposal’s costs?
- $1-2M for the conceptual design
- $5-10M for the detailed design
- $300-500M for design certification and licensing
- $1000-2000M for the prototype deployment
- 1-2 years conceptual design
- 2-3 years detailed design
- 4-5 years design certification and licensing
- 3-4 years prototype construction and deployment
- MIT Offshore Floating Nuclear Power Plant website: http://floatingreactor.mit.edu
- MIT News release, http://newsoffice.mit.edu/2014/floating-nuclear-plants-could-ride-out-tsunamis-0416 , April 16 (2014).
- "Nuclear Power: All at sea", The Economist, April 26 (2014). http://www.economist.com/news/science-and-technology/21601231-researchers-find-advantages-floating-nuclear-power-stations-all-sea
- J. BUONGIORNO, M. GOLAY, N. TODREAS, A. BRICCETTI, J. JUREWICZ, V. KINDFULLER, D. FADEL, G. SRINIVASAN, R. HANNINK, A. CROWLE, M. CORRADINI, “Offshore Small Modular Reactor (OSMR): An Innovative Plant Design for Societally Acceptable and Economically Attractive Nuclear Energy in a Post-Fukushima, Post-9/11 World”, SMR2014-3306, Proc. ASME 2014 Small Modular Reactors Symposium (SMR2014), Washington, DC, April 15-17 (2014).
- J. JUREWICZ, J. BUONGIORNO, M. GOLAY, N. TODREAS, “Offshore Floating Nuclear Plant (OFNP) with Spar-Type Platform Design”, Proc. 2014 ANS Winter Meeting, Anaheim CA, Nov. 9-13 (2014).
- A. BRICCETTI, J. BUONGIORNO, M. GOLAY, N. TODREAS, “Siting of an offshore floating nuclear power plant”, CANES Report ANP-152, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2014).
- D.W. RICHARDSON, “Semi-submersible Nuclear Power Plant and Multipurpose Platform”, U.S. Patent Application 20140140466, May 22, 2014.
- IAEA, “Status of Small Reactor Designs Without On-Site Refuelling”, IAEA TECDOC 1536 (2007).
- KOLMAYER, “Blue submarine: The Flexblue offshore nuclear reactor”, Power Eng. Int., May 1 (2011).
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