Before the Arab Oil Embargo in the early 1970s, Westinghouse was engaged in a project called Offshore Power Systems. The idea was that they would build large nuclear power units in a factory and float them to destinations off of the coast near major load centers. The large plants would be placed on artificial steel islands and protected by breakwaters formed of giant concrete “jacks” called dolos.
Public Service Electric and Gas Company of New Jersey was the first customer; they signed contracts for what they called the Atlantic Nuclear Power Plant. The manufacturing process for the first order began at Blount Island, near Jacksonville, Florida in 1972. However, the concept died after PSEG lost a lot of business following the Arab Oil Embargo and needed to halt new projects to stem their cash flow drain. (A significant portion of the company’s power output served petroleum refineries that had less raw material to refine for quite a few months.)
The notion of putting nuclear plants off-shore has never quite disappeared. A French partnership that includes DCNS, EDF and Areva has a slightly different approach that takes advantage of their experience in building reliable, underwater nuclear plants. Check out the promotional video and imagine the possibilities. I hope there are a few Atomic Insights readers in the Washington Navy Yard, Newport News and Groton who get inspired to fire up their competitive thought processes.
What do you think? Will Flexblue “sinking nuclear power plants” beat out Russian “floating nuclear power plants?” Better yet, will American companies enter the fray and take advantage of their more extensive experience in off-shore power systems.
EITB.com (January 25, 2011) – Underwater nuclear plant on the Basque coast?
Discovery News (January 25, 2011) – Nuclear Reactors Move to the Ocean Floor