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A $200-Million Floating Nuclear Plant? 453

Posted by timothy
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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A $200-Million Floating Nuclear Plant?

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  • Safety (Score:4, Informative)

    by LiquidCoooled (634315) on Sunday October 15, 2006 @06:35PM (#16446825) Homepage Journal
    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 (Score:5, Insightful)

      by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Sunday October 15, 2006 @06:50PM (#16446949) Homepage
      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 [northpolevoyages.com] on the Yamal
      • 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: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Jahz (831343)

        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) ge

        • Re:Safety (Score:5, Interesting)

          by MindStalker (22827) <mindstalker.gmail@com> on Sunday October 15, 2006 @07:29PM (#16447295) Journal
          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: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Duhavid (677874)
            I dont know about nuke, but USS Lexington ( CV2 )
            powered Tacoma in 1929 for about a month.

            here [historylink.org]

            She had a turbo electric drive, so she could generate a lot of power.
          • Re:Safety (Score:5, Funny)

            by Pseudonym (62607) on Sunday October 15, 2006 @08:05PM (#16447605)
            But from my understanding after the last San Franciso major earthquake that some nuclear vesseles [...]

            I think you misspelled "wessels". Hope this helps!

        • Umm.... (Score:5, Informative)

          by kf6auf (719514) on Sunday October 15, 2006 @07:58PM (#16447551)
          The USS Enterprise has 8 A2W reactors (210 MW) and Nimitz class aircraft carriers have 2 A4W reactors (194MW). So yeah, 2x60W reactors can power much less than a nuclear aircraft carrier.
          • Re:Umm.... (Score:5, Informative)

            by some_hoser (656003) on Sunday October 15, 2006 @09:02PM (#16447981)
            When comparing reactor powers, you really need to make sure you know what convention they are using when they say power - thermal power, or electric power? The thermal power of a plant is usually about 3x the electric. A 1000 MW (electric) plant runs at about 3000 MW (thermal). In the field they'll say MWe or MWt. A 60MWe reactor will be about the same as a 180MWt reactor. Another point is that on the nuclear powered ships, so cut down on space they have to use small (in terms of volume) reactors, and they use fairly highly enriched uranium (up to 90%), so the pressure inside gets much higher, and so they are more dangerous that conventional reactors. On a large barge, however, they have less space constraints so could go for a less energy dense and safer reactor.
          • Re:Umm.... (Score:4, Informative)

            by confused one (671304) on Sunday October 15, 2006 @10:44PM (#16448611)
            for what it's worth, the Enterprise was overhauled a few years back... and they replaced the 8 smaller reactors with 2 larger reactors, to bring it up to the same equipment standard as the Nimitz class. (I know this because I live within a few miles of Newport News Shipyard, where they did the work).
        • Re:Safety (Score:5, Informative)

          by kextyn (961845) on Sunday October 15, 2006 @08:02PM (#16447585)
          I just want to point out a few facts here. Nimitz class carrier has 2 A4W reactors outputting 94 MW each. These carriers also have a crew of 3,200 ship's company and 2,480 in the air wing. This new facility will be powered by 2 KLT-40S reactors outputting 60 MW each. So yes, this may be a different scale of power generation. But it's a smaller scale then what the US Navy has floating already.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by trentblase (717954)
          This thing: 2 60MW reactors Nimitz Class Aircraft carrier: 194MW I'd say it's about the same scale. http://www.naval-technology.com/projects/nimitz/ [naval-technology.com]
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Apraxhren (964852)

          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.

          Are you sure about that? The Popsci article states that the plant would be run by two 60 megawatt reactors that are currently used in Russian icebreakers so 1/2 wouldn't really be considered smal

        • Small reactors (Score:5, Informative)

          by AJWM (19027) on Sunday October 15, 2006 @08:42PM (#16447861) Homepage
          We're talking about TWO full scale reactors on a barge.

          No, we're talking two relatively small reactors on a barge. Typical nuclear power reactors for feeding the electrical grid are in the 600 to 1000 megawatt range, not 60 MW, and most facilities have more than one (the Pickering and Darlington facilities near Toronto have 8 650 MW and 4 850 MW reactors respectively).

          The reactors aboard an aircraft carrier do more than just run the lights, they can push the whole thing at speeds in excess of 40 knots (how much in excess isn't exactly talked about -- but even that is more than fast enough to water ski behind!). Ditto for nuclear subs -- plus they provide air and water for the crew (hydrolysis and reverse osmosis).

          Modern nuclear submarines typically use reactors up to 200 MW, the French Rubis-class subs use a 48 MW reactor, Russia's Oskar-II class uses 2 190 MW reactors. Surface ships like aircraft carriers or the Kirov-class battle cruiser use two reactors each up to 300 MW each.
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by fishbowl (7759)

            "The reactors aboard an aircraft carrier do more than just run the lights, they can push the whole thing at speeds in excess of 40 knots (how much in excess isn't exactly talked about -- but even that is more than fast enough to water ski behind!"

            Please tell me you've skied behind a carrier!
        • Umm, the CARRIERS have 2 reactors, each of which can supply enough megawatts to cities of around 20,000 people, even back in the 70's. Maybe they can provide juice to more nowadays. (CVAN-65/CVN-65 Enterprise has **8**, but probaly only 4 to 6 at any time are up and running with maybe 2 on hot-standby and the other to in some other unpublished state of readiness due to the sheere expense of recoring the -65.)

          1,000 people in the crew? Try some 3,800 crew and 2,200-2,800 in the air wing, plus the Marines deta
        • Re:Safety (Score:5, Informative)

          by frdmfghtr (603968) on Sunday October 15, 2006 @10:27PM (#16448519)
          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.


          Yes, this is a change in scale, but in the other direction...Naval reactor plants are BIGGER than these two plants, power-wise. The S6G plant in the Los Angeles-class subs alone is more powerful than these two plants. While I've never worked on this particular plant, I don't doubt what wikipedia has to say about it.

          S6G: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S6G_reactor [wikipedia.org]

          I DO have extensive experience operating older S5W reactor plants, and while I'm not about to give specs on it, I will say that it cranked out more power than one of these proposed floating plants.

          As far as an aircraft carrier goes, the typical crew complement is 5000...and it can move in excess fo 30 knots. The electrical load ALONE is 32 MW, not to mention the power needed to drive 95,000 tons through the water at 30+ knots.

          In short...these barges are small compared to Naval reactor plants.
      • by mrmeval (662166)
        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 (Score:4, Insightful)

      by macadamia_harold (947445) on Sunday October 15, 2006 @07:25PM (#16447253) Homepage
      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 [ingentaconnect.com].
    • by mishmash (585101)
      The UK considered using nuclear submarines to power Belfast during a workers strike: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/413263 5.stm [bbc.co.uk]
    • by westlake (615356)
      Where else could you get an unlimited supply of coolant?

      The supply is unlimited only so long as the cooling system remains intact and operational.

      What are the risks of corrosion, if any, in using cold salt water as a coolant?

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

      You could. But the barge is anchored inshore. Where is the nearest drop point? How much time and personnel and equiptment do you need to do this under artic conditions?

      If it can b

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by ericartman (955413)
      Isn't this a start to a Godzilla movie?

      EC
    • This is a really lousy idea. Boats can sink or get knocked around, and it will be close to shore where water is shallow. The idea of all of this radioactive material just waiting to get tossed into a waterway is not appealing.

      Nuclear power, with safe reactor designs, on stable, firm ground, on land, might be a good idea. But this is just crazy and insane.
    • I do think that your sig is ironic considering the topic. In spite of that, overall I do think that this is a good idea. But the problem that I have with it is that it could become an easy target. Perhaps concrete walls, etc to protect.

      It strikes me that it would have to have special conditions for it. But in particular, Alaska, Canada, and even within the great lakes would be great places for this.
  • by selil (774924) on Sunday October 15, 2006 @06:40PM (#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: (Score:2, Informative)

      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

    • 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
    • by OrangeTide (124937) on Sunday October 15, 2006 @07:20PM (#16447219) Homepage Journal
      "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.
      • by dasunt (249686) on Sunday October 15, 2006 @07:51PM (#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: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Pseudonym (62607)

          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.

          I've often wondered, given the massive amounts of research going into power distribution systems these days, why this energy can't be used in some way. Nuclear reactors, after all, work by heating water. If you could preheat the water using the recently-produced waste, you wouldn't need to drive the

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by flyingfsck (986395)
          Yup, one can safely chew and swallow plutonium (some crazy scientist actually did that as a demonstration). The only damage will be to your teeth. It would be like chewing on a steel nail. With a half life of 25000 years, plutonium doesn't radiate, so the main danger is that it is a little poisonous, but to do anything, it needs to dissolve and being a solid metal, that doesn't happen easily, so if you swallow a plutonium pellet, it will pass through your body quite harmlessly. Compared to that, the liq
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Kohath (38547)
        And transporting radioactive waste to an from a processing facility is extremely risky...

        And your evidence for this statement is?

        Come on, you must have evidence of at least some risk to suggest it's "extremely" risky.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by WindBourne (631190)
        There is no power source that you will make everyone happy. Crazy environmentalists don't like wind power

        Do you want to know why we have difficulties getting things done in the USA?

        1. Because one crazy group of ppl are busy accusing the other side of being crazy. Sadly, we are now so polarized on issue that we are stymied from getting anything done. My suggestion is that if you want to get things done on this, quite calling the other side crazy. Environmentalist have a point. But even with that said, we ha
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by sbaker (47485) *
      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 e
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Waffle Iron (339739)

        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.

        That's just plain wrong. You're confusing the oft-quoted factoid that a coal plant *releases* more radioactivity into the environment than a nuclear plant along with its long-term storage facilities. (As long as Murphy's law is held at bay for 10,000 years or so.) That do

  • Pirates? (Score:2, Informative)

    by TiraX (967674)
    Maybe pirating can be a reborn and profitable proffesion again? yarr?
  • It could be worse (Score:5, Informative)

    by solevita (967690) on Sunday October 15, 2006 @06:40PM (#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:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/5391586.stm
  • by mgabrys_sf (951552) on Sunday October 15, 2006 @06:40PM (#16446861) Journal
    No.

    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!
    • 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
  • by balsy2001 (941953) on Sunday October 15, 2006 @06:41PM (#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.
    • by dbIII (701233)

      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 ge

    • I think you hit the nail on the head - whats scary is the word commercial. What was that triangle again that the engineer shows his boss? The one with cost at one end and safety and security at the other? Yeah...applying THAT to this scenario is what makes it scary.

      Tell you what though, is scarier: think about throwing PR/Marketing/sales guys in the mix down the line ;)
  • 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.

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

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

    • by dbIII (701233)
      Not nearly as freightening as the reactors and fuel they provide for Iran.

      Iran is apparently in the middle of a basketball craze and they have a lot of imported US players to teach the local teams US style basketball - it's not the isolated basketcase many people think it is. The majority of the population are young enough to only have early memories of the long running series of wars that ended in 1989.

  • 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.
    • by LWATCDR (28044) on Sunday October 15, 2006 @06:56PM (#16446993) Homepage Journal
      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.
      • by Libertarian001 (453712) on Sunday October 15, 2006 @07:14PM (#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).
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday October 15, 2006 @06:47PM (#16446921)
    Will it ever be possible to have a rational discussion about energy production?
  • 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 t

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by balsy2001 (941953)
      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: (Score:2, Informative)

      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 mo
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Chayak (925733)
      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 o
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by coobird (960609)

      The output of a nuclear reactor is controlled by inserting and withdrawing the control rods [wikipedia.org] 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 [wikipedia.org], 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.

    • by AK Marc (707885)
      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 i
    • by TooMuchToDo (882796) on Sunday October 15, 2006 @08:06PM (#16447613)
      You are indeed correct Sir. This is called a SCRAM. In the event of a catastrophic failure, electric motors release rods into the reactor to completely shutdown the fission reaction. In the US, I believe this is mandatory to have a commercial reactor in production.

      From Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SCRAM [wikipedia.org]

      "In modern nuclear power plants, the control rods are lifted by electric motors against both their own weight and a powerful spring. A SCRAM rapidly (less than four seconds, by test) releases the control rods from those motors and allows their weight and the spring to drive them into the reactor core, thus halting the nuclear reaction as rapidly as possible."

      Also, most people are ill-informed as to why Chernobyl occured:

      From Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Void_coefficient [wikipedia.org]

      "A positive void coefficient means that the thermal power output increases as the void content inside the reactor increases due to increased boiling or loss of liquid moderator or coolant. If the void coefficient is large enough and control systems do not respond quickly enough, this can form a positive feedback loop which can quickly boil all the coolant in the reactor. This happened in the Chernobyl accident."

      It's illegal to build positive void coefficient reactors in the US for this reason. Negative coefficient reactors won't have runaway reactions.

  • 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?
  • 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? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by robpoe (578975) on Sunday October 15, 2006 @07:05PM (#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..

    • by norkakn (102380)
      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.
    • 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.
    • by radtea (464814)
      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 err
      • by mattkime (8466)
        >>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.
      • by marcushnk (90744)
        "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!""

        Heh, I can do that too...

        We need more money and more effective adverts and... OHMYGOSH... WEB 2.0!!!!
      • by asuffield (111848)

        Reprossessing extends the fuel supply considerably, but at the cost of losing enough plutonium per year to make multiple bombs.

        So what? We already lose enough uranium per year to make multiple bombs.

        There's a myth going around that you need plutonium and not uranium to build nuclear bombs. It's a myth encouraged by the power industry. It's still a myth, they both work quite well enough. Of all the nuclear bombs deployed in aggression so far (two), exactly half of them (one) were uranium bombs. Plutonium is

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by steve_bryan (2671)
        ...and limited [nuclear] fuel supply...

        Is that the sound of a knee jerking or have you actually bothered to check? Here is a reference [stanford.edu] that indicates that the uranium supply (economically recoverable) would last billions of years though it does not assume exponential growth or anything similar. It does assume breeder reactor technology. In other words we would have to worry more about the Sun burning out first.
    • by Kohath (38547)
      Some people like to BAR-B-QUE...

      Don't you know? Meat is murder!!!!!!!

      ...not worry about whether the kids are going to burn themselves...

      I think your liberal imperialist environmental communists are more likely to have a dog. But the solar panels violate the dog's animal rights to use the backyard for a toilet, so solar is out.

  • by creimer (824291) on Sunday October 15, 2006 @07:07PM (#16447083) Homepage
    ... when they see the "Made In North Korea" sticker on these reactors.
  • by Tavor (845700) on Sunday October 15, 2006 @07:08PM (#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 [wikipedia.org] design had a nasty design flaw, which the world became aware of in 1986 [wikipedia.org].

    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.
  • The US abandoned a simlar plan for a nuclear plant off the coast of New Jersey called the "Atlantic Generating Station."

    http://s159443129.onlinehome.us/pdf/ocean_structur es/140e_atlantic_generating_station.pdf [onlinehome.us]

    It wouldn't float but it would be offshore.
  • skyships? (Score:2, Funny)

    by Dred_furst (945617)
    Why is it the first image I saw was a nuclear reactor floating in the air? that would be far cooler but I guess a boat makes more sense :(
  • The US Nimitz class Aircraft carriers each carry a single 194MWatt nuclear reactor. The USS Enterprise has a total of eight nuclear reactors onboard. All but two US carriers - and absolutely all US military submarines are nuclear powered. Even ships as small as cruisers have been nuclear powered in the past.

    French Rubis class submarines each have a 48 MW reactor.

    Russian Typhoon class submarines carry two 190MWatt reactors.

    Russian Arktika class ice breakers carry two reactors of 171MWatts each. The Taimyr
    • by belg4mit (152620)
      Indeed. In addition, while not exactly pro-nuclear, the knee-jerk reaction of the
      submitter is short-sighted. A well-designed barge-based reactor could be safer
      than a land-based one, as you have a large heat dump at your disposal in case of
      emergency. . o O ( Get too hot? Drop the core as a last resort. )
  • Except for Chernobyl there has been few nuclear accidents that impacted much of civilian/non-technicians lifes. And Chernobyl was basically the same Americans did to Hiroshima and Nagasaki in WWII, a test in a place where lives were expendable without knowing the results. The rest of the accidents was usually contained to the site and sometimes a few technicians working at the plant. I think coal- or gas-explosions for the sake of generating power have requested multitudes of life not to mention the long-ti
  • Why (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kahrytan (913147) on Sunday October 15, 2006 @08:24PM (#16447731)

      Why can't the russians just build a 20.25 square foot solar site? It will still generate 200 Megawatts of power. That can power alot of households in Russia.

    Google Solar Mission /.ers.
    • by dr_db (202135)
      Because when you are in the far north, the sun goes down in October, not be seen again for March. Solar don't work so good when there is no sun.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by kahrytan (913147)
        This device works 24/76, with or without the sun.

        SolarMission's solar thermal power station will generate electricity 24-hours a day. The power station will be at its most efficient on hot days when energy is most needed and peak prices are paid for electricity. Innovative design will enable the power station to store heat and continue to generate energy during the night. This special feature enhances the commercial viability of the power station and gives SolarMission a consistent competitive advantage

  • Crash Testing (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thunderland (982634) on Monday October 16, 2006 @12:36AM (#16449263)
    OrangeTide said:

    ...And transporting radioactive waste to an from a processing facility is extremely risky...


    No. As you can see in these crash test videos [blogspot.com], the containers used to transport nuclear waste can be broadsided by a 120-ton locomotive traveling at 80 miles per hour and come out of it with only cosmetic damage. Unfortumately, all the fud about accidents & terrorism on trucks or trains carrying nuclear waste tends to appeal more to peoples fearful hearts than the facts do to peoples rational minds. That makes me a sad pro-nuclear panda.
  • by SoLoman33333 (1014093) on Monday October 16, 2006 @12:37AM (#16449273)
    The USS Sturgis, stationed at the Panama Canal. The Department of Energy describes the Sturgis as follows: STURGIS Floating Nuclear Power Plant; Designation MH-1A, Location: Gatun Lake, Canal Zone; Principal nuclear contractor: Martin; Pressurized water reactor, Capacity: 10,000 net kW(e), Authorized 45,000 kW(t), Initial criticality, 1967; Shutdown (permanently), 1976. The vessel provided power to the Canal Zone. It was the first floating nuclear power plant and, for nearly three decades, appeared to be the last. In 2008, the Russians plan to bring on line the next floating nuclear power plant.
  • The real news (Score:4, Interesting)

    by hcdejong (561314) <hobbes&xmsnet,nl> on Monday October 16, 2006 @05:14AM (#16450403)
    is the price tag. AFAIK $200M is an order of magnitude cheaper than current nuclear power plants. How did they get the price down that far?

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