From Kent based Hawkinge Gazette 16.2.11
Plans for undersea nuclear power reactors in the English ChannelPosted by editor on Feb 16, 2011 - 08:50 AM
Filed under: Industrycommerce, News
Plans for undersea nuclear power reactors in the English Channel could see a boom in uptake of the technology.
But serious questions about costs and waste disposal remain unanswered if the French go ahead with the plans which could see the reactors a few kilometres off the coast of France.
The French have a large-scale nuclear energy programme with 58 nuclear reactors providing nearly 80 per cent of the country’s electricity supply.
In a bid to bring dependable energy to remote coastal communities, the French government has decided to give the green light to a different kind of nuclear power programme using smaller nuclear reactors to be based on the ocean floor.
In January, France's naval construction firm DCNS agreed on a joint two-year study of a concept for submerged nuclear power plants together with French company Areva, Electricité de France and the French Atomic Energy Commission (CEA). Promoters say these could provide energy for millions of people in coastal locations worldwide.
The concept for the nuclear submarine, known as FlexBlue, involves a cylindrical vessel about 100 metres long and 15 metres in diameter that would encase a complete nuclear power plant with an electrical capacity of between 50 MW and 250 MW.
By comparison Dungeness B power station on Romney Marsh has an output of almost 1100MW.
Flexblue would comprise a small nuclear reactor, a steam turbine-alternator set, an electrical plant and associated electrical equipment. Submarine power cables would carry electricity from the Flexblue plant to the coast.
With costs significantly cheaper than traditional onshore reactors, estimated at several hundred million Euros compared to about 5 billion Euros for a full-sized reactor, French engineers believe it could lead to a boom in the uptake of nuclear power.
The flexblue plants would be designed to be moored on a stable seafloor at a depth of 60 to 100 metres a few kilometres off shore. A system of ballast tanks would be used to raise or lower the plant during installation and for major maintenance, refuelling or dismantling.
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