Researchers propose plans for floating nuclear power plant

17 Apr 2014

Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have developed a design for a nuclear power plant designed to float in the ocean, protecting it from tsunamis and other seismic activity.

While the concept of a sea-based nuclear power plant is not new, this new design will be different from previous designs as it will be based further out to sea, rather than being based just off the shore.

The MIT team, led by associate professor of nuclear science and engineering Jacopo Buongiorno, said in a YouTube video that scenarios, such as the destruction of the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan following a tsunami in 2011, would not be possible with their model.

The team also stated that previous issues that have affected nuclear power plants in the past – such as the Chernobyl and Three Mile Island disasters – would be impossible at sea, as they would be virtually impossible.

As Buongiorno says himself: “It’s very close to the ocean, which is essentially an infinite heat sink, so it’s possible to do cooling passively, with no intervention. The reactor containment itself is essentially underwater.”

If the design is ever to get the go-ahead, the floating power plants will be constructed in a nearby shipyard before being towed to the selected location and moored to the ocean floor. Once this is completed, the energy will be returned to shore through a number of underwater cables.

Other detailed benefits include the ability to simply tow away the power plant once it is due for decommission, in comparison with current land-based plants that require a much more regulated and time-consuming process of making sure the area is free from any nuclear dangers.


Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic