A moored floating nuclear power plant that utilizes the latest spar technology in use by the offshore petroleum industry offers a path to economic viability. Plant capacity could range from 100 MW to 750 MW or larger based on a modular design concept. This concept is covered by U.S. Patent US9556857(B2), the rights to which are owned by OTEC International, LLC.
Building a new nuclear power plant on land entails myriad difficulties, not the least of which are where to locate it and how to minimize environmental or safety impacts. Floating spar technology offers a combination of characteristics that is almost ideal for application to a nuclear power plant. Among them are:
- Spars are extremely stable and virtually unaffected by storms or other sea surface disturbances such as tsunamis.
- Proven PWR technologies could be used directly.
- The plant or plants could be located near large or isolated markets. As an example, plants could be located within 5 miles of most of the California coastline. They could be far enough from shore where states have no authority and only Federal regulations apply.
- There is no need to design the structure for earthquake loads.
- There is an unlimited supply of cooling water for use as a passive ultimate heat sink.
- Thermal efficiency will be 10-15% greater than land based systems because of condenser cooling water available at a constant 50F from a depth of 1000 ft.
- There will be virtually no thermal plume impact on the ocean because plant discharge can be at a depth where the temperature of the natural gradient in the ocean matches the discharge temperature.
- Plant cost will be lower than a land based facility.
- The plant could be relocated in the future.
The plant concept would be based upon being moored in water about 1500 feet deep with a submarine cable to bring the power ashore. This is well within the current technology experience for both spars and cables which now are used in water depths of 4000 feet or more. Disclosure: I spent the early part of my career as a Lead Engineer designing and constructing a successful PWR power plant that is still in operation. Since 2008, I have been leading the engineering effort to design a commercially viable OTEC based power plant and am named on multiple patents from that effort.