back to article MIT boffins moot tsunami-proof floating nuke power plants

Boffins at MIT have mooted a new concept for nuclear power plants which would see the entire facility towed several miles out to sea and moored in a similar way to offshore oil and gas platforms. The proposals would see nuke power plants built in shipyards and then moored or anchored a few miles off the coast, linked to the …

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  1. Chris Miller

    An idea worth investigating, but the sea is a far more hostile environment than land. It's not just corrosion (though that's bad enough), but a hurricane is almost no threat to a land-based nuclear reactor encased in a heavy concrete shield. At sea, it's another matter.

    1. Matt 21

      Well nuclear powered subs exist, as do nuclear powered air craft carriers.......

      1. Smooth Newt Silver badge

        MIT boffins moot tsunami-proof floating nuke power plants

        Nuclear powered ships move around severe weather. I can't see floating nuclear power stations doing that without having to unplug the electricity cable to the cities.

        1. Matt 21

          Re: MIT boffins moot tsunami-proof floating nuke power plants

          They do, when they get accurate weather reports and have enough time to do so. Friend of mine worked on one and was caught in a hurricane.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: MIT boffins moot tsunami-proof floating nuke power plants

          "Nuclear powered ships move around severe weather. I can't see floating nuclear power stations doing that"

          That's because floating power nuke plants are a daft idea - rogue waves or off course ships pose more likely hazards than tsunami, but either could be as devastating for a floating nuke plant. And the mass of a decent scale nuclear power station is such that trying to make it float is simply bizarre - "let's take the heaviest objects ever built by man, and try and make them float!". A far better idea would be building an underwater nuke power station. Tsunami, rogue wave, and mostly off-course ship and storm proof, can weigh as much as you want. Arguably neither more nor less vulnerable to military attack.

          Admittedly a full scale underwater power plant would be a larger scale underwater construction than anything plant wise we've done yet, but there's plenty of very long tunnels under very high groundwater pressure that we've managed, the military experience of marine nuclear reactors could be turned to good use, and with suitable precautions, the plant is its own sarcophagus if things go pear shaped.

          1. frank ly

            @Ledswinger Re: MIT boffins moot tsunami-proof floating nuke power plants

            You forgot about seabed earthquakes. If it 'floated' a few hundred feet off the bottom, in deep water, that might work out well. The cables would have to be designed to snap under heavy strain, etc, but it could be done. As for 'the heaviest objects ever built being made to float', take a look at a large cruise liner.

          2. Psyx
            Pint

            Re: MIT boffins moot tsunami-proof floating nuke power plants

            "There's also a floating nuclear plant in the US"

            The Nimitz, Abe Lincon, Ronald Reagan...

            Then there's the really clever underwater ones... the San Juan, Santa Fe, Boise...

            "That's because floating power nuke plants are a daft idea - rogue waves or off course ships pose more likely hazards than tsunami, but either could be as devastating for a floating nuke plant."

            How many aircraft carriers have sunk in the last 25 years? Seems fairly safe so far: We just need to make sure the floating power stations have a pointy bit at the front!

            1. Austhinker

              Re: MIT boffins moot tsunami-proof floating nuke power plants

              Which direction is the front?

              If Rogue waves can come from more than one direction, you need to be able to turn the power station, or have more than one "front". One possibility might be giant prow shaped airbags, but these still need to be activated, either by sensors or humans, both of which are prone to failure. A better idea would be a design that lets the waves pass harmlessly over the top of the plant.

              Off-course ships would just have to be torpedoed! After reasonable warning, of course.

          3. Mikey

            Re: MIT boffins moot tsunami-proof floating nuke power plants

            "let's take the heaviest objects ever built by man, and try and make them float!

            You mean supertankers? You'll find they already do float, on account of them being ships and all.

            And a floating nuke plant doesn't have to have all the vulnerable infrastructure above the waterline. Makes more sense to have the reactor vessel and support gear underslung and in the water already, in case things DO go pearshaped. Plus you've got more space on top for helipads, accomodation, etc.

            Not too difficult when you think about it for more than 30 seconds ;O)

          4. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: MIT boffins moot tsunami-proof floating nuke power plants

            >That's because floating power nuke plants are a daft idea

            For every reason except planning consent

            Cost/time to get permission to open a reactor in San Francisco vs permission from feds to moor one 12miles offshore

            1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
              Headmaster

              Re: MIT boffins moot tsunami-proof floating nuke power plants

              > For every reason except planning consent

              Run those other reasons by me again, I forget. Some commentard let rip on those but never bothered to go into details...

          5. Austhinker

            Re: MIT boffins moot tsunami-proof floating nuke power plants

            Underwater does have it's benefits.

            Being deep underwater has it's advantages.

            Anti-terrorism: You can't crash an airliner into an underwater reactor at any speed, and for most terrorists it would be difficult to get any potentially destructive devices to the reactor.

            Earthquakes: With the weight of the power plant partially countered by submersion, it would be easier to provide a suitable anti-earthquake suspension system.

            Asteroid impact: If the asteroid is big enough to dangerously damage the reactor then a meltown will be the least of our worries.

            Disadvantages: Access for staff and supplies.

            Unfortunately neither floating or underwater reactors solve the biggest vulnerability of nuclear power: human fallibility and commercial pressures. For example, I understand that the Fukushima disaster would have been mostly (or completely) prevented if the operators had followed safety upgrade recommendations to have adequate backup power generation inside the reactor's protective shell.

      2. boltar Silver badge

        "Well nuclear powered subs exist, as do nuclear powered air craft carriers......."

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_sunken_nuclear_submarines

        1. GitMeMyShootinIrons

          @boltar

          "Well nuclear powered subs exist, as do nuclear powered air craft carriers......."

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_sunken_nuclear_submarines

          And the list of sunken nuclear powered aircraft carriers? Oh, that's right, there isn't one. Not to mention, there's only submarine to have a sinking related to the reactor - and that was scuttled against after the event, against the advice of the IAEA. All of these incidents (including the Kursk) relate to cold war era hardware too - somewhat less mature technology than today.

          1. boltar Silver badge

            Re: @boltar

            The reason for the sinkings are irrelevant - they sank. And no , there arn't any sunk nuclear aircraft carriers , mainly because they tend to stay out of harms way. A nuclear reactor sitting on a platform is a sitting duck for any halfwit terrorist with a grudge not to mention the elements.

            1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
              Thumb Down

              Re: @boltar

              A nuclear reactor sitting on a platform is a sitting duck for any halfwit terrorist with a grudge not to mention the elements.

              Terrorist plows into a large floating concrete platform. Terrorist sinks.

              Elements plow into large floating concrete platform. Elements pass.

              The stupid "it won't work because a) terrorists b) mother nature" is really getting on my wick. With that kind of attitude, not using fire after the last ice age might have looked like the safe option.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: @boltar

                I'm sure that during and after the last Ice Age there were a lot of shamans banging on about how fire was really dangerous, using it was against nature, and the gods would punish anybody using their divine prerogative.

                They and their tribes just didn't get to contribute to the gene pool.

              2. boltar Silver badge

                Re: @boltar

                "The stupid "it won't work because a) terrorists b) mother nature" is really getting on my wick. With that kind of attitude, not using fire after the last ice age might have looked like the safe option."

                Don't be an ass - there are certain places you don't build certain things. You wouldn't build a reactor on a geological fault or at the edge of a cliff so why build it in the middle of the sea where its exposed to harsh weather and waves and is a damn site harder to protect from attack? Oh , and if a reactor has a meltdown on land its bad news but at least there's some containment - if it did it in the ocean, well , shall we work out how large the extent of the pollution would be?

      3. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Nuclear ships/subs use designs which are dictated by their cramped environments and military requirements.

        The biggest problem with almost all land-based systems is that they're scaled up version of marine military technology, which leaves them needing lots of water, not running hot enough to be economic and with intrinsically compromised safety systems.

        I'm a big supporter of nuclear tech. I'm a massive opponent of systems which use liquid metals (sodium burns like a bastard if you expose it to air) or boiling water systems (steam explosions are a far bigger risk than meltdowns and hot, high pressure water is amazingly corrosive).

        Molten salt systems or pebblebeds have got to be a big step in the right direction towards intrinsically safe civil plants and I suspect that a molten salt system would be a good fit in a modern nuke boat too.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          MARF = US Navy S7G reactor at Balston Spa, NY.

      4. pacman7de
        Facepalm

        List of Nuclear Accidents ..

        @Matt 21: "Well nuclear powered subs exist, as do nuclear powered air craft carriers".......

        "List of sunken nuclear submarines"

        "List of military nuclear accidents"

  2. Big Al
    Facepalm

    It may be sensible and true, but saying up front that "Any radioactive gases released could also be “vented” underwater to further reduce risk" just ensures even greater Green opposition and bad publicity for the whole project.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      And then no-one would be allowed into the entire ocean due to high radioactivity levels?

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: @TRT

          True, but...

          A: Not in the concentrations found in a Fission reactor.

          B: Certainly not enriched.

          1. Mad Mike

            Re: @TRT

            @AC

            "True, but...

            A: Not in the concentrations found in a Fission reactor.

            B: Certainly not enriched."

            True, but the sea has one great advantage. Over time (but pretty swiftly really), it churns around the globe and distributes any concentrations. This doesn't happen on land, so a much bigger problem. Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying it's a good thing to dump loads of radioactivity into the sea, just that the sea is actually better at dealing with it.

          2. imanidiot Silver badge

            Re: @TRT

            His point is that theres already a LOT of Uranium in seawater, putting some more in doesnt matter. The problem in nuclear accidents isn't the big chunks. You can pick those up with a robot. It's the dust and gasses that are much harder to contain. Venting a radioactive gas underwater is just going to get it dissolved in seawater, where it'll very soon be so diluted it's no longer dangerous.

            Enriched Uranium is not actually all that much more radiactive than natural uranium. The only difference is the concentration of fissile U-235 instead of the non fissile U-238. Modern Low Enriched Uranium is only about 20% enriched. Which theres 20% more U-235 in it compared to natural uranium. 20% more of a TINY amount is still a tiny amount.

            The danger with used nuclear fuel is not the uranium. It's all the other fission products that come into existence during the fission of Uranium. Especially the actinides are a problem. Most of these however are pretty shortlived with a half-life of a few days to a few months. Meaning they'll be nearly gone within a few years.

            Note also that the radiation in the Fukushima area deemed to be "high" is in fact, in the grand scheme of things not that high. Most of the area is at or just slightly above the background radiation in some other areas of the world happily occupied by non-cancer riddled human beings. (Like the Rockies, which are very rich in natural uranium).

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: @TRT

              Er, no, LER doesn't have "20% more U235 in it compared to natural uranium". It has up to 20% atom for atom U235, rather than 0.7%, i.e. around 20 times more concentrated. A bottle of natural uranyl nitrate is quite safe to have around the place, as I used to do when experimenting with special effects in photographic printing, a bottle of LER uranyl nitrate, not so much.

              That said, I agree with the rest of your argument. Once the stuff is diluted, the production of highly radioactive actinides also stops.

              The problem with Fukushima is that there are people out there who think that "natural" radioactivity is benign, "artificial" radioactivity isn't. Dartmoor good, Fukushima bad. But to be fair Dartmoor and the Rockies have low populations; perhaps if they were densely populated we might have a cancer problem.

              1. Nuke

                @Arnaut the Less - Re: @TRT

                Wrote :- "to be fair Dartmoor and the Rockies have low populations; perhaps if they were densely populated we might have a cancer problem"

                Aberdeen in Scotland has a high background level because the ground around there contains granite and the older buildings are built of it. Aberdeen is called "The Granite City" and is a tad more densely populated than Dartmoor. Despite much research there, last I heard was that no scientific study has ever found higher resulting cancer levels.

        2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: @TRT

          >, there's about 4.5 billion tons of uranium in seawater already.

          But that's natural organic free-range uranium

    2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Devil

      even greater Green opposition

      GOOD!

      TROLL THEM UNTIL THEY BLEED!

  3. Charles Manning

    And when the Greens get pissy...

    Just tow the whole power station to France.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      Devil

      Re: And when the Greens get pissy...

      No, no, no, no. When the greens get pissy, you invite them out for a reassurance and fact-finding visit. then push them over the side, into the shark-infested waters.

      Or if you're feeling a little more subtle, and have more spare cash, you organise a helicopter crash...

      It worked for Sadam Hussein, after all. None of his gernals ever tried to overthrow him. And that's becasue all the ones who won more than a couple of battles in a row in the Iran-Iraq war, had helicopter crashes. Of course that war dragged on for years, and his military subsequently got their arses kicked, at least partly due to incompetent leadership. But you can't have everything...

      1. Ben Bonsall

        Re: And when the Greens get pissy...

        Correction:

        ...then push them over the side, into the *water infested with radioactive sharks*. .

        :)

        1. james 68

          Re: And when the Greens get pissy...

          but do they have lasers on their heads?

          inquiring minds need to know

          1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

            Re: And when the Greens get pissy...

            but do they have lasers on their heads?

            Evolution takes its own sweet time dear boy. Even with heavy gamma ray assistance.

            I think the most we can hope for the near future is terrifying glowing eyes. Obviously those will take many many years to develop into lasers.

            Hopefully, if we get the dosage right, we can have the sharks acting as underwater CD players within a few centuries, working our way up to boat-puncturing lasers after that. Remember they've still got enormous teeth, so this shouldn't inconvenience them too much in the meantime...

          2. Captain DaFt

            Re: And when the Greens get pissy...

            "but do they have lasers on their heads?"

            Here's Your freakin' shark with a frikkin' laser on it's head. Now can we let this this poor old tired meme die with dignity already?

            1. Martin Budden Bronze badge
              Headmaster

              Re: And when the Greens get pissy... @ Captain DaFt

              fin ≠ head

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: And when the Greens get pissy...

        Saddam Hussein learnt his approach to generals from Stalin, except that Stalin had a chance to improve his methods; after 1936 he had almost no competent generals left, after 1941 he had enough sense to rely on natural wastage rather than continue to shoot himself in the foot.

        My own solution to the Greens would be more subtle. Find them a suitable area of, say, Yorkshire or Lancashire, and fund them to develop their alternative vision for society. Only allow them electricity generated from renewables. See how long they last.

        1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

          Re: And when the Greens get pissy...

          Close, AC, but not anywhere mainland. Give them a nice island (so they can't sneak off, and we can be sure that they are not using any natural resources sneakily). There are several off the coast of Scotland - any that can survive a decade there without using any natural resources can come and tell us what they learned.

  4. Scott Broukell
    Meh

    Doh!

    Just when they said it was safe to go back in the water. Alas I have a sinking feeling about my plans for lead-lined swimwear. Still, the oceans should be even warmer at this rate and folk will be able to surf right through the night, what with all the glow-in-the-dark seaweed etc.

  5. James Boag

    a yacht !

    If he had studied the offshore platforms in any detail, He would be aware that each installation would have a 500m exclusion zone and a Yacht would under no circumstances be aloud within this zone.

    Still plenty of work for the ROV crews inspecting the structure,

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: a yacht !

      That's an artefact caused by x-ray impingement on the retina brought about by the relatively thin shielding around the core due to the reduced mass required so the buoyancy calculations would work.

    2. Measurer
      Headmaster

      Re: a yacht !

      I find yachts to be quite quiet, and in no way 'aloud' (me hearties)!

  6. Kracula
    Childcatcher

    I'm no MIT...

    But I can think of a couple of examples of "unsinkable" machines that now lay on the bottom of the sea. I'm not sure that a power plant nuclear reactor should be one of those.

    I don't know about MIT boffins, but I like my fish with two eyes and a tail.

    1. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

      But we live in a democracy

      Some of us prefer fish having fingers.

      And MIT have some notably dab hands in that plaice.

    2. Mad Mike

      Re: I'm no MIT...

      In reality, there's no shortage of nuclear power plants at the bottom of the sea (numerous have sunk in subs etc.) and there are even a few nuclear bombs (of various types) as well!! However, I do share your sentiments about 'unsinkable'. I guess it depends a lot on how deep the water would need to be to mitigate the Tsunami. As long as it isn't too deep, it could actually sit on the ocean floor.

    3. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
      Happy

      Re: I'm no MIT...

      Easy answer. Simply call it HMS Sinkable. Or Vincible. It's bound to be safe then.

    4. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Alien

      Re: I'm no MIT...

      like my fish with two eyes and a tail

      "Anomalocarida, beasts with rotated heads and dangerous finned mutants! EDIACARIDAE!! Protect the world from the encroachment. HELP US STOP THE CAMBRIAN EXPLOSION!"

    5. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: I'm no MIT...

      "I'm not sure that a power plant nuclear reactor should be one of those."

      There are a number of them there already - not just sunken nuclear subamrines, the soviets dumped at least five cores from the Lenin (Nuclear Icebreaker) in and around the Barents Sea, along with an unknown number of spent nuclear sub cores.

      Several of them are very close to Finnish waters, so are watched very closely. At _no_ stage has any radioactivity above normal background levels been detected outside the hulls of the vessels, nor inside, more than 1-2 metres from the reactors.

      One observation made is that natural mud level buildups means that all the sites will be completely buried within 2 centuries.

  7. SiempreTuna

    .. Fukishima Residents Never Allowed Home?

    .. didn't el Reg have any number of articles around the time of Fukishima assuring us that it was all being blown out of proportion and that actually, it was all about as dangerous as wearing a glow in the dark watch?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: .. Fukishima Residents Never Allowed Home?

      Shhhhhh....don't mention that....it was hoped no one would notice.

    2. deadlockvictim

      Re: .. Fukishima Residents Never Allowed Home?

      Of course, they have covered the country in shame for happening to live there.

    3. AndrueC Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: .. Fukishima Residents Never Allowed Home?

      Not being allowed home does not necessarily mean that it's unsafe.

      It just means someone doesn't want you to live there. There could be any number of reasons for that and since it's usually a government body giving the order the chances of it being the result of 'an unbiased decision resulting from careful consideration of all the scientific evidence' is fairly remote.

      Mind you it's also just as unclear whether articles posted in the media are any more likely to adhere to such rational decision making :)

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. squigbobble
          Joke

          Re: .. Fukishima Residents Never Allowed Home?

          "Greenpeace say 200,000 excess caner deaths."

          What the hell were the Chernobylese caning?

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: .. Fukishima Residents Never Allowed Home?

          A number of those iatrogenic deaths are due to chemotherapy, which is pretty dangerous.

          It's therefore of interest to note that for many cancers, chemotherapy is both less effective than, and much more unpleasant than, radiotherapy.

          And yes, the Chernobyl excess deaths is a wild overestimate. There have been articles on El Reg making exactly this point. Life on Earth evolved in a radioactive environment; in fact, one of the enablers for evolution is that same radioactivity. You can't even eliminate the "natural" variety since you can't live without potassium, which happens to be the lowest mass nucleotide which has a significant amount of its radioactive isotope. Radioactivity isn't good for you, but nor is stepping off the pavement without looking (especially now the number of lunatic cyclists seems to be increasing.)

          1. Psyx

            Re: .. Fukishima Residents Never Allowed Home?

            "There have been articles on El Reg making exactly this point."

            Yeah, but they were by Lewis, so hardly impartial...

            1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
              Holmes

              Re: .. Fukishima Residents Never Allowed Home?

              Fukishima Residents Never Allowed Home

              Hmmm....

              Fukushima 2.25 -- The Humanitarian Crisis

              The miniscule risks outlined by all these studies do not justify the continued harm and devastation perpetrated upon the Fukushima refugees. Except for the small, highly contaminated areas adjacent to the reactors which should stay off-limits until remediated, the risk of cancer and death from the increased use of coal and gas since the disaster has provided much more risk to the population of the Tohoku region, and to Japan as a whole, than any radiation effects from Fukushima.

              Simply stopping smoking, which is rampant in Japan, would more than erase any risk from Fukushima, even for those who do not smoke.

              This is cold comfort to the families of the elderly who died unnecessarily because of the forcible evacuation from hospitals and care homes during the accident, something admitted by the government. Since all radiation effects decrease dramatically with age, these people were in no health danger from the radiation at all and died pointlessly.

          2. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: .. Fukishima Residents Never Allowed Home?

            "Radioactivity isn't good for you"

            Various studies have pretty much indicated that some minimum level of radioactivity is NECESSARY (presumably as way of dithering DNA to weed out errors in the same way that dither noise is added to a CD bitstream to eliminate audible noise.)

        3. Psyx

          Re: .. Fukishima Residents Never Allowed Home?

          To be fair: America did a great GREAT job of nuking itself stupid fifty years ago, so it could well be the radiation still...

  8. deadlockvictim

    Fukushima

    What I don't really understand is why the authorities in the prefecture of Fukushima ( «blessed island» in Japanese ) didn't build some form of impressive anti-tsunami structure in the sea in front of the power plant. Gods know that Japan is a place likely to be hit by tsunamis. The word itself is Japanese.

    Methinks that the Japanese had (or maybe still have) a much-bleieved ostrich-in-the-sand approach to things that will destroy them (or maybe simply to things that «smell» (kusai)).

    1. Steve Todd Silver badge

      Re: Fukushima

      Err, they did. I just wasn't built on the scale of the event that did hit them.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

        1. Tom 7 Silver badge

          Re: Fukushima

          "Then the coolant pumps could have been kept running."

          Assuming there was coolant to pump and a circuit to pump it round.

          There may be cooling water available but if you've ever poured water into an overheating car that has run dry you will see this is as effective as, ... well steam and mirrors. You pour cold water into an overheating reactor you get a reactor like swiss cheese.

          1. Getriebe

            Re: Fukushima

            "Assuming there was coolant to pump and a circuit to pump it round"

            There was and the pumps etc worked fine, until the batteries gave out after 8 hrs IIRC.

            The real fail was as said above, the diesel generators and the tanks were close to the sea. If they had been about 200 meters inland they would have survived and probably no one would have ever heard the words Fukushima Dai - ichi

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Fukushima

              The real,real fail was that Tepco wanted to helicopter in additional pumping in the early stages, but the Japanese government vetoed them. Which is why said Government wants to keep the whole thing quiet and have no real investigation. It might be made too obvious that political interference in engineering is inadvisable.

              1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
                Trollface

                Re: Krugmanshima

                It might be made too obvious that political interference in engineering is inadvisable.

                Next you will be saying that political meddling in the economy is unwise.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Krugmanshima

                  No, I won't say that political meddling in the economy is unwise.

                  Political, from the Greek polis, the city, meaning all matters to do with the government of the city.

                  Economics, from the Greek oikia, farm or household (in the wider sense) + nomos, laws.

                  Civilisation (the art of living in cities) is a constant ebb and flow between politics and economics. One of my kids works at the very sharp end of where economics meets politics (competition law) and that's where you find the really big brained economists and lawyers, because it is really, really important to get the balance right.

                  If you don't have political oversight of the economy, you have no mechanism to prevent the rich from oppressing the poor and you end up with a backward society, probably based on warring clans. History shows it hasn't worked well.

                  If you have too much political interference in the economy, whether of the right or the left, you end up with stuff that simply doesn't work - command economies, or kleptocracies.

                  However, science and engineering provide big, and relatively independent and objective, insights into how things work and how they can be improved. When politicians overrule scientists and engineers, they are basically trying to redesign the laws of nature, which tends not to end well. The Japanese government intervened in an engineering decision because, inter alia, they were afraid of losing face. As a result, they lost a lot more than that.

                  Another example is the war on drugs, where politicians go against the scientists for a variety of face-saving and emotive reasons, and the response to the obvious failure of the policy is to make the same mistakes again, but harder.

                  1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
                    Holmes

                    Re: Krugmanshima

                    If you don't have political oversight of the economy, you have no mechanism to prevent the rich from oppressing the poor and you end up with a backward society, probably based on warring clans. History shows it hasn't worked well.

                    This is delusion and please show me when in history this happened. In reality, you wouldn't even KNOW what to fix and nudge to reach some vaguely stated "best situation", or "fixing" things will just make things worse.

                    big brained economists and lawyers

                    LOLNO. These things don't exist, and there is a reason for that. The people you see are full of shithubris and self-importance and the ones who actually can make reasonably humble judgements just don't rise to the top of the political shark tank. Plus, the ones who "can" mostly are not interested in the cocktail circuit.

                    Meanwhile, "big-brained economists" make their judgments (the consequences of which you can see daily at the local labor office) and things are getting worse... and very much worse.

                    But here’s the thing. Prime Minister Abe has not been laughed out of the G-7 for being the economic dunce that he actually is. Indeed, his fellow dimwit at the IMF, Christine Legarde, has actually praised him for his perspicacity and courage. Given this kind of leadership in the global monetary system it might be wondered how the VXX remains pinned down at nearly all-time lows. The answer apparently is that the tables at our monetary Jonestown are now getting packed end-to-end.

                  2. Alan Brown Silver badge

                    Re: Krugmanshima

                    "Political, from the Greek polis, the city, meaning all matters to do with the government of the city."

                    Alternatively:

                    Poly = many,

                    ticks = bloodsucking insects.

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Fukushima

          Or if the diesels were mounted a little further up the hillside (or Tepco had managed to install extra power supplies. The helicopter thing happened after they couldn't get roadable generators in, due to the roads being trashed.)

          It was an old plant which was being run well past its design life. That it coped so well with an event well outside design parameters says a lot about the paranoia and levels of safety built into such systems - and that's despite a large number of well-directed criticisms of japanese nuclear plants where they'd covered op accidents or lax inspection regeimes.

          Having said that, Boiling Water Reactors are still dangerous kludges and if better tech was used they wouldn't need to be located near large sources of water in the first place.

      2. Getriebe

        Re: Fukushima

        "Err, they did. I just wasn't built on the scale of the event that did hit them."

        Also as the ground had sunk by 2m (??) their wall was a little lower than expected - sea being flat and all that.

  9. VinceH

    * Looks forward to the inevitable low-budget, made-for-tv disaster movies based around this concept, featuring some dodgy science.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Title suggestions?

      Tsuranium!

      Platform 238.

      Reactorgeddon Oceanic.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Isn't the sea ...

      ... generally where Godzilla emerges from?

      1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: Isn't the sea ...

        Yup. "Up from the depths, 30 stories high..." (at least that was the kids cartoon one from when I was a nipper, which is now going to be today's ear-worm).

        And we can forget sharks with frikkin laser beams on their heads. We'll now have Pacific sharks with laser beam eyes...

        1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge
          Facepalm

          Re: Isn't the sea ...

          Godzilla! And Godzuki...

          You fiend for reminding me of that!

          1. Psyx

            Godzuki...

            ^%$^&£&£!!

            How I hated him.

            Nearly as much as Scrappy Doo.

            He needed to die.

            With fire and acid.

            1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

              Re: Godzuki...

              SPIRIT OF BRUNEL

  10. codebeard

    Security risks

    Isn't it going to be significantly harder to secure an offshore nuclear power plant?

    What if a well organised terrorist group attacks from sea and steals the delicious enriched uranium? It would be hard to mobilise any kind of military defence of the platform. Or if during a war your enemy fires a torpedo at it (which can bypass all your advanced air defence systems because it's underwater)?

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Message From A Self-Destructing Turnip

        Re: Security risks

        That IFR referred to will be the PRISM reactor design then. Using liquid sodium as a coolant, it may well be less prone to blow its top or melt down, just be careful you don't let any air or water in! Well I suppose every engineering solution has its advantages and disadvantages. Interestingly this reactor is one of the new generation designs referred to as a small modular reactor (SMR). Being much smaller with lower output (10-300MW) its is likely to be a SMR that the MIT Boffins are considering to put to sea, rather than the current land based 1000MW behemoths suggested by some comments.

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: Security risks

            "This was the case at the Monju Nuclear Power Plant in a 1995 accident and fire."

            Which is why the Monju plant has so far cost over $9billion and prduced electricity for a grand total of 1 hour in its entire 20+ year lifetime.

            3 tons of sodium in the basement is not an "easy cleanup" and the intensity of the fire was such that steel columns nearby started melting.

            Let's try to push something that's intrinsically safe please. Molten-Lead cooled reactors would be preferable and they're difficult enough to deal with...

    2. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Security risks

      Content-Warning: This posts deals with armed assaults, nuclear armageddon, child abuse, ocean waves, sharks with lasers, some mild nudity, and prehistoric puns.

      The platform is armed with a nuke. So if terrorists attack, they just detonate. It's the paedophiles we've got to worry about; how do we stop them, given all the seamen there's likely to be?

    3. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Headmaster

      Re: Security risks

      What if a well organised terrorist group attacks from sea and steals the delicious enriched uranium?

      These platforms are easy to defend.

      And the way things are going AI-wise, you will just buy a container of Aperture Science Turrets and put them at strategic points. Problem solved.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: Security risks

        "And the way things are going AI-wise, you will just buy a container of Aperture Science Turrets and put them at strategic points. Problem solved."

        Just make sure you get a load of good turrets. Don't know how much good a load of half-naked, empty, and snarky "crap" turrets will do in such a situation.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Security risks

      Equipping the platform with an Aegis system, its own missiles, a rail gun or two (plenty of power available), Phalanx guns, and custard pie launchers for Greenpeace should do the trick.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: Security risks

        This idea is racist to custards!

        1. Tom Maddox Silver badge
          Go

          Re: Security risks

          I'm sure they'll listen to Reason.

  11. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

    Piper Alpha

    somehow came into my mind. I wonder why?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Piper Alpha

      I don't know, because Piper Alpha was an oil and gas platform with major safety defects. Nuclear power doesn't work like oil and gas. If we're going to use the test of "it's a water based thing that had a disastrous accident", that's pretty irrelevant. Fossil fuel infrastructure has a much worse safety record than nuclear plants, and the Piper Alpha disaster was directly related to the oil and gas, not its being in the North Sea per se.

  12. All names Taken
    Paris Hilton

    Containment Solution?

    If dilution is the solution to pollution at sea what is the solution of containment in the worst possible case scenario?

    1. Brenda McViking

      Re: Containment Solution?

      Just sink it. Radioactivity from fuel rods isn't dangerous to humans when it's below 3m of water (which is why we have spent fuel ponds at most reactor sites where the spent fuel cools off.)

      Yeah, greenpeace will be shouting "won't somebody think of the fish" but compared to an atmospheric release, it's a no brainer.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Containment Solution?

        but it's the algea (or something) that produces more oxygen than the Amazon so if we kill off the oxygen makers.....

      2. VinceH

        Re: Containment Solution?

        "Yeah, greenpeace will be shouting "won't somebody think of the fish""

        I'm already thinking of the fish.

        I'm specifically thinking about the possibility of cod and chips from the local chip shop being a bit cheaper, because they'll get the cod already cooked.

        1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
          Headmaster

          Re: Containment Solution?

          I'm specifically thinking about the possibility of cod and chips from the local chip shop being a bit cheaper, because they'll get the cod already cooked.

          Please explain how you expect this to happen.

          1. VinceH

            Re: Containment Solution?

            I expect this to happen because I have a sense of humour.

            Next question.

  13. RISC OS

    what about getting hit by a freak wave...

    ...the kind that can sink aircraft carriers and the wrold's largest tankers?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rogue_wave

    "Any radioactive gases released could also be “vented” underwater to further reduce risk"

    yeah... who cares if everything at the bottom of the food change gets nuked... it's not like things get passed up the food chain is it, or that food chains can collapse if the bottom tiers are taken out... oh wait...

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Alien

      Re: what about getting hit by a freak wave...

      who cares if everything at the bottom of the food change gets nuked

      Planetary engineering sure has come of age!

  14. John Diffenthal

    OK, but how do you get the power back to land?

    I assume that someone has thought through the problems of creating a marine EHV cable capable of carrying 20kV or so?

    1. Stoneshop Silver badge
      Boffin

      Re: OK, but how do you get the power back to land?

      A long-solved problem.

      http://new.abb.com/systems/hvdc/references/norned

      1. John Diffenthal

        Re: OK, but how do you get the power back to land?

        The example you quote is for fixed end points - depending on the nature of the floating nuclear generator there could well be movement at one end, hence my question.

  15. Dr Scrum Master
    Pirate

    2 for 1

    Some time ago, when the news was full of stories about international summits turning each venue into a fortress and the host city becoming a battleground for various protesters and riot police, I mused that all future international summits should be held at sea, possibly aboard some purpose-built vessel. This SS International Summit could sail the seven seas to whichever regional grouping was holding its regular photo-opportunity and banquet. Residents of cities would be freed from the disruption caused by international summits, policing bills would be cut, etc. There is even a precedent set by Churchill and Roosevelt aboard HMS Prince of Wales.

    Of course, this would require cooperation amongst various nations to agree who should build and operate the SS International Summit, but if we already have floating structures (which also have a plentiful power supply) then nobody has to complain.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 2 for 1

      Until the protesters swarm the SS International Summit in their rubber dinghies and so on. Then there's the possibility of a protester getting hold of some ship of size and scuttling it to block the ship's path in or out.

      IOW, any ship that holds a summit is going to have a big, fat bullseye on it.

  16. 2+2=5 Silver badge

    Genius idea...

    And for countries that are landlocked or only have short coastlines and large interiors (requiring long, lossy transmission lines, like China, for example)?

    On the other hand, for countries with long coast lines with most of the population on the coast it's ideal. Australia could build dozens of these right along the Great Barrier Reef. I'm sure Greenpeace & WWF would be supportive. ;-)

    So the potential market for this idea is looking a bit like: the UK, Spain, the coastal states of the US, and a dozen Far East countries like Japan and Malaysia?

  17. Anonymaus Cowark

    what could possibly go wrong?

  18. squigbobble

    Putting the 'sink'

    ...in 'heatsink'.

    Since reactor waste (including the knackered reactor) is usually buried, why not just cut out the disassembly stage and build the reactor in an underground cavern? Once it's had it, remove all the parts you want to keep and fill the voids with rubble and concrete. Dead reactor buried.

    You'd have to pick your geology carefully but no more carefully than any waste storage site and the only operational risk this would introduce is the cavern flooding or bits falling off the ceiling in an earthquake. The cavern itself would shield the reactor from impact by energetic objects and the outside world from the reactor's gamma emissions.

  19. Not That Andrew
    Mushroom

    These guys have never heard of Piper Alpha or Deepwater Horizon, have they?

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      So what do you think?

  20. ecofeco Silver badge

    We're Doomed

    When an idea like this comes from MIT, you know the end is not far.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Re: We're Doomed

      Why? Are you alluding to Aaron Schwartz here?

  21. Chris G Silver badge

    Waste heat

    Currently nuclear power plants are about 30% efficient so for every unit of electricity generated there will be about two units of equivalent waste heat being dumped into the ocean. So for a modest 300MW plant it will be chucking out 600MW worth of waste heat into the sea.

    I would be interested to know what kind of impact that would have in both local terms and if the plant is anywhere close to important currents what effects could be expected downstream?

    I know 600MW is about the same as the power of equatorial midday sun hitting the surface over an area of 60 square kilometres but here we are talking about discharging 24 hours a day into the sea rather than irradiating the surface with sunshine, something that is more likely to experience cooling effects more directly from the atmosphere.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Waste heat

      Well, in that Neal Stephenson story, the submerged RTG was boiling the water, which tended to attract pirates, which then had to be fended off with an electromagnetic gatling gun.

      Other than that... you will probably attract tropical fish. And this will then seamlessly morph into the situation where you have to widen Earth's orbit to get rid of all the HEAT!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Waste heat

      How efficient do you think are conventional generators? They are either pumping the heat out as warm water which finds its way to sea, or warm air. The useful electrical output goes 100% to heating the atmosphere. The atmosphere is a much smaller heat sink than the ocean (roughly equivalent to a 10M depth of water, average ocean depth about 3000M if spread over entire surface of Earth) but our power generation doesn't seriously affect it.

      Seriously, a 600MW input to the ocean can be turned on or off by a small cloud pattern.

  22. J to the S

    They'll find some lame excuse not to do this. Like, having a floating nuclear plant out at sea will upset the migratory patterns of some aquatic life-form no one has ever heard of before.

  23. Richard Conto

    Not all oceanscapes are created equal...

    Geography still applies. There are oceans subject to "Monster Waves" that could damage one of these. If one of these things "melts down" or sinks in relatively shallow water in a place with a strong current, it could poison enormous fisheries, etc.

    And imagine one of these in the Mediterranean. With religious crazies all around who care nothing for life.

    The best location for these would be over some of the deep trenches by a subduction zone, where if the darn thing "melts down", down is into a subduction trench where the fuel will end up back in the planet (I've been re-reading David Brin's "Uplift" books, so that might explain why I think this is plausible.)

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