Floating Nuclear Plant Would Ride Out Tsunamis

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A new design initiative proposed by a team of MIT researchers would reduce the risk of nuclear power plant accidents from tsunamis — by moving the facilities out to sea.

It seems counter-intuitive, but the science is solid, according to the MIT team. Proposed by Jacopo Buongiorno, associate professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering, the floating power plants would be similar to offshore oil rigs, with reactors affixed to floating platforms moored to the seafloor.

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Offshore reactors aren’t a new idea — the Russians are building one now — but the key to the MIT plan is that the power plants would be moved five to seven miles out into the ocean. At those depths, Buongiorno says, even the most massive tidal waves are dispersed by the ocean depths.

“This affords some absolutely crucial advantages,” Buongiorno says on the project’s concept video. “First off, tsunamis and earthquakes are no longer a source of risk for the nuclear plant. Essentially the ocean shields the seismic waves and the tsunami waves in relatively deep water.” Check out the team’s video pitch below:

The floating reactor would also preserve land resources and solve some longstanding practical concerns with nuclear power plants.

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“The ocean itself can be used as an infinite heat sink,” Buongiorno says. “This is an advantage with respect to current terrestrial plants, in which the ultimate heat sink is not assured.”

No word on the obvious giant sea monster security issues, but you can be sure the MIT team will issue an addendum on that shortly. Those guys think of everything.

Credit: MIT