Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Undersea Nuclear Reactors Can Find Multiple Uses

DCNS, the French state-controlled naval company, said it will work in partnership with French companies Areva, EDF, and the French Atomic Energy Commission to build small- and medium-sized underwater reactors to provide electricity to consumers....Radio France Internationale reported Wednesday.

The company said its Flexblue project, expected to enter the building phase in 2013, is in response to global energy challenges and renewed interest in nuclear power. _UPI

Video h/t NextBigFuture
Small, portable nuclear reactors that are made for placement under the sea, could be used for many porpoises purposes. Besides running power cables to land to serve terrestrial customers, such undersea reactors could also serve floating installations and seafloor industries -- even undersea cities.
Akin to the submarines that DCNS has been making for the French navy for 40 years, Flexblue is a cylindrical unit 100 metres in length and 12 to 15 metres in diameter. Inside would be a small nuclear power reactor and well as steam generators, turbines and a generator to produce 50 to 250 MWe.

The vision is for such a unit to be installed on the seabed under 60 to 100 metres of water, several kilometres from a centre of power demand such as a city, industrial base or remote community which it would serve via underwater cables.

A video released today depicts the unit's deployment under naval guard. It is transported to sea on a heavy lift ship which lowers itself to allow Flexblue to maneuvre under its own power. Descent occurs under the watch of divers before a cutaway view reveals four stories of plant within the hull. The structure is then covered by a net and power is transmitted by cable to shore. _WorldNuclearNews_via_NextBigFuture

Brazil is already planning for "undersea cities" as replacements for deep ocean offshore oil rigs:
The plan is to construct 'cities’ more than 2,000 metres under water, containing machines, giant pieces of equipment and robots that could inspect the systems being used to extract millions of barrels of oil. Many operations would be fully automated while others would be controlled by humans at a distance.

“Our target is that we won’t need platforms in ten years from now,” said Carlos Tadeu Fraga, executive manager of the Petrobras Research Centre.

Petrobras already owns virtual reality laboratories where engineers can inspect 3D images of oil fields. But now they want to take a further technological leap by installing floating rig equipment on the sea bed.

The machinery under the sea would be capable of separating oil, gas, water and sand, compressing substances and generating enough energy to keep the operation functioning.
As deep sea mineral mining and deep sea science and exploration joins deep sea oil & gas drilling, the need for self-powered seafloor installations will grow in urgency. Sealed nuclear reactors that can run between 20 and 50 years on a single fueling will provide the necessary energy security for such installations.

A few years ago, the Estonian Maritime Academy proposed the development and installation of a subsea nuclear reactor off the Estonian coast in the Baltic Sea, for provision of basic power to the country. US naval submarines have traversed the world's oceans for several decades, powered safely and reliably by small nuclear reactors, so the concept of undersea reactors is well proven.

The idea of nuclear powered undersea cities may seem like the stuff of science fiction, but show me a better way to power a post-apocalyptic undersea civilisation. And what better place to survive the great lefty-Luddite environmentalist-engineered dieoff of humans on the surface? Abundant electricity allows for producing freshwater via desalination, oxygen for breathing via electrolytic splitting of water, hydrogen for fuel cells and chemical processes, etc. Nuclear reactors produce plenty of heat, so there would be no reason to be cold, regardless of outside sea temperatures.

Last but not least, plentiful small modular nuclear reactors -- both on land and sea -- should put a quick end to all of the EROEI nonsense one hears batted around at peak energy religious websites. ;-)

Taken from an earlier article at Al Fin blog

Something not mentioned in the alfin2100 version of this article is the use of seafloor nuclear reactors to power the autonomous machine mining of methane clathrates and seafloor coal -- both resources are likely to prove enormous beyond current reckoning. Deep seafloor mining of coal -- if it ever becomes necessary on Earth -- will have to be done by either autonomous machine or by remotely controlled robotics.

As for off-planet seafloor mining of methane clathrates -- it may be some time before that is necessary on Europa or Titan, given the energy-rich atmospheres and surface frozen precipitates.

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