A team led by Professor Jacopo Buongiorno of the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering at MIT in collaboration with collaborators from the University of Wisconsin and Chicago Bridge and Iron is developing a new concept for an offshore nuclear power plant on a floating platform of the type commonly used for oil and gas production.
The concept proposes a plant that can be built in a shipyard, towed on a floating platform to the site where it can be anchored a few miles off the coast in relatively deep water, and connected to the grid via an underwater transmission line. The plant would be unaffected by earthquakes and would also “ride out” tsunamis, which have low wave heights in deep water.
In addition to centralized construction these plants would provide easier siting and enhanced safety: proximity to the ocean heat sink assures that reactor cooling can be maintained reliably and without external intervention, even during hypothetical accidents.
The group has launched a wiki to crowdsource design ideas for the new nuclear plant concept. The wiki describes the current design along with areas they would like to address through crowdsourcing. These include any aspect of the design — from overall schematic to a specific sub-system, strategies for dealing with ship collisions and possible underwater attacks, and proposal for any aspect that may not have been addressed by the current concept.
The group has announced a call for proposals and is encouraging students to contribute individually or in teams, and is offering prizes for winning ideas.