It is getting increasingly obvious to oil exporting nations that nuclear power plants offer an intriguing investment opportunity. Russia recently inked a deal with Bulgaria to build a couple of new nuclear power reactors, investors in Alberta have been looking hard at using nuclear power in the oil sands region, and this morning I came across two stories about floating or submerged nuclear power plants for both Norway and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states.
In Norway, Statoil is getting some heat for indicating its interest in participating in an extraction project with Russian partners that may involve the use of nuclear power plants located underwater to assist in the process of resource recovery. An article titled StatoilHydro upsets environmentalists, again was published on February 11, 2008 by Aftenposten.no (News from Norway). Here is a quote from that article:
Russia has suggested the new field may be operated with electricity from a floating nuclear power plant, and that drew fire from environmental champion Frederic Hauge.
Floating nuclear power plants are “something Norwegian authorities should absolutely distance themselves from,” Hauge told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). He fears a nuclear accident.
“StatoilHydro should withdraw from this project,” Hauge claimed, even if the Russians only start working on such plans.
Unfortunately, Statoil’s response seems to have been a denial that its partners are talking about using nuclear energy in the development of the new field, which is located under the Barents Sea. Of course, the fact that its partners have not mentioned nuclear power to Statoil does not mean that they have not mentioned it elsewhere. I found an article dated February 12, 2008 titled Floating nuclear power plants attracting interest of the oil industry in Russia and abroad on the Bellona.org site. That article reported on a conference that took place in Kalingrad at the end of January. Here is a quote from that article:
But a Kaliningrad conference, where the notion had so many adherents, represents the first time large-scale western oil giants have thrown their weight behind the dicey nuclear prospect.
“The concept of underwater atomic station has potential for autonomous energy supplies for underwater oil and gas fields at low capital investment and is worth further investigation,” said Petter Birkeland, director of production for Norway’s JP Kenny Norge AS at the sixth Russian-Norwegian oil and gas conference entitled “Partnership of Companies of the Oil and Gas Sector for the Exploration of the Continental Shelf.” The conference convened at the end of January in the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad.
Birkeland said Russia must make a significant contribution to the design of such underwater reactors, which are envisioned to be 50 to 100 megawatts, much like the reactor installations aboard nuclear icebreakers.
That article makes my competitive juices rise – after all, I am an unreformed Cold Warrior who spent a good portion of a decade underwater thinking about how to beat the Russians if the war ever got hot. It pains me to see that my former adversaries are moving in a profitable direction to take advantage of the nuclear technology that tens of thousands of Americans learned at least as well in the same challenging environment. NR, the keepers of that technology, seem to believe that it provides our country with maximum security if it is rarely used. I think they are dead wrong.
Here is more food for thought on the use of floating nuclear power stations, a article published on February 4, 2008 titled GCC nuclear power stations will provide cheaper energy. The article talks about building a floating nuclear power station in the Persian (Arabian) Gulf. Floating nuclear power plants are intriguing there because of the lack of good cooling water supplies on land. The plants could provide electricity that would displace the current use of oil as fuel for electrical power plants and also produce fresh water as a by-product use of the “waste” heat that must be rejected in any steam plant. Here is a quote from the article:
Speaking to Emirates Business, he (Dr Ahmed Khalil Al Mutawa, Secretary General of the Gulf Organisation for Industrial Consulting (GOIC)) said: “Within the next five years, the GCC will produce 20 per cent of the world petrochemical production. The current investment in the GCC petrochemical industry is around $100 billion (Dh367bn) and various governments are planning investment of between $80bn to $90bn in upstream petrochemical projects. The proposed nuclear power projects will provided cheaper energy to these projects and help maintain the competitive advantage of the region in petrochemicals.”
Here is another opportunity for people who know how to build long lasting ships with nuclear power plants and who also have a long history of supplying technology to nations in the Gulf region. This market should be contested by proposing and completing even better products than are currently being offered. The job and trade opportunities are incredible.