Discussion in 'General Science Discussions' started by Yellow Fang, 27 Nov 2013.
I had a job interview for a company doing that sort of thing. Didn't get it though.
It's probably one of those companies that might get screwed by Brexit anyway, so you may have dodged a bullet. I'm back on the job market now. Things seem to be getting though out there.
Best of luck. I hope you find it easier than I did.
This is an interesting idea. A hybrid of traditional and thorium reactors that creates a new class of safer(?) smaller plants with less waste. Seems like the sort of thing the world could do with. Lets hope it lives up the concept.
I think this solution is a great idea for Nuclear power. The biggest problems as I see it with nuclear is that the land used for building the plants on is often unusable for a very long time. Also the construction / deconstruction costs are often very high and the bulk of the cost.
So if you could just mass produce a standard nuclear power station on a ship then you would get the costs down a lot. I saw someone recently mention that every nuclear power plant in the world is bespoke, even though the technology inside is from one of a few common designs. The main reason for this is the geographic location of the plant. Building in defences from local threats from nature or to ensure it get the resources it needs. The beauty of the ship idea is that you are designing them all to be on the water next to a well protected sea wall of some kind. Then once they have outlived their useful life in that location they can be moved away, reconditioned and sent to a new location.
You could either dock them up near a coastal city and run that city off a ship or could build a small port in a remote location and patch it into the national grid. In quite a few places this is not a new concept, there are already ships that have oil, gas or coal power plants on ships that provide power to countries with poor infrastructure.
I guess the big question is the cost per MW of electricity. With renewable prices dropping all the time can this technology bring down the price of nuclear to an price-point that can compete? Obviously the initial investment is going to be quite high and probably go through a rapid iteration process as they learn new things from each design. The potential problems listed in the Wiki article don't seem insurmountable. Things like tsunami protection seem more like a problem of making sure the connection to the dock can cope with that, more than a problem with the ships design. Or maybe don't use where there is a threat of a tsunami... As far as the Russian history of a few radioactive leaking issues. Well I think a bit of independent monitoring and safety checks could help here.
Also there is a danger of local radiation build up from occasional discharge. Well one of the advantages of the ship is that if an area is seeing too much of a build up it's relatively cheap to move it to a new location. Maybe have a number of locations it could plug into and rotate them to distribute the radiation build-up over a larger area. If these locations are in low population area as well then it becomes less of an issue.
As well as the infrastructure left behind could be easily repurposed. By the time you no longer need a floating nuclear power plant you may want to charge up electric cargo ships. Would most likely be using the same sort of high power lines you already have already.
Finally you can turn the Russian one into a desalination plant making 240,000 cubic meters of fresh water a day which could be a life saver for some cities.
This could be the SpaceX of the nuclear industry. A reusable nuclear power plant that reduces costs over time. Would take a lot longer to play out but with good maintenance I can't see why these could not be used for possibly hundreds of years in multiple locations with parts swapped out over over time. Like with SpaceX I think the hardest problem is working out how to manufacture them efficiently. If they can crack that and start churning them out a a reasonable price then I think they could catch on fast.
Did some basic calculations and if you look at this compared to Hinkley Point C nuclear power station we are constructing in the UK. Hinkley Point will produce 3,200 MWe compared to the 55 MWe proposed generation ships max supply. You would need about 58 of these to match the Hinkley Point supply. The fist ship built was estimated at a cost of about £190 million and 58 of them would be about £11 billion. Compared to the £20 billion Hinkley Point will cost. Also finding 58 locations would be hard. But you could have them in groups. Having 4 per location would bring it down to 14 locations and 12 per location would drop that to just 5 locations. Obviously there would be a cost to getting these locations ready but at half the cost of doing it on land then you probably have the money over to do that. As well as driving the price down with a nice big bulk order like that. Also you have a more distributed power system which seems to be best practice these days.
I think if they can double the power maintain the same price and set up a production line to churn these out fairly fast then it's going to become the only sensible way of doing nuclear. Just like wind it will go off-shore.
Separate names with a comma.