Underwater nuclear power plant proposed
DCNS, the French state-owned submarine-building and nuclear engineering firm, plans to conduct a validation study on its designs for a small subsea power plant for supplying coastal regions with electricity. The power plant, called Flexblue, would sit on the seafloor at a depth of 60m to 100m, a few kilometres off shore, and have an electrical output of between 50MW and 250MW. According to designers, the power plants design makes Flexblue resistant to tsunamis, earthquakes or floods and its underwater position makes it less vulnerable to terrorist attacks. The power plant would comprise a small nuclear reactor, a steam turbine-alternator set, an electrical plant and associated equipment. Power cables would carry electricity from the Flexblue plant to the coast and a system of ballast tanks would be used to lower or raise the plant during installation and for major maintenance, refueling or dismantling. Like a nuclear submarine, the reactors design would attempt to prevent any contact between nuclear materials and the marine environment. A fuel cladding, a reactor vessel and a hull would protect the reactor core from leaking, and because it would be submerged, the seawater itself would provide a natural means of cooling the reactor and only that which is used for cooling would be released into the environment. A prototype could be built by 2016 if the design is validated.