Nuclear power may not be clean enough to be included in some studies about the feasibility of renewable energy, but some countries are so determined to get off fossil fuels in favor of nuclear power that they are studying how they can place nuclear reactors on the ocean floor.
Each nuclear reactor that would go on the ocean bed is pretty small, generating as little as 50 megawatts, enough energy to power about 37,000 American homes.
The nuclear reactors are being developed by the French naval defense company DCNS, which has dubbed its innovation the Flexblue. Preliminary studies that lasted two years showed that it is possible for Flexblue to produce from 50 to 250 megawatts of nuclear energy on the ocean floor.
According to a press release on DCNS's website, the Flexblue was designed for use in any nation that borders the sea, probably because it would be hard for landlocked country to find a large enough body of water to store the under-sea nuclear reactors. The Flexblue may look like a huge submarine in the video on DCNS's website, but compared with traditional land-based nuclear power plants that can be many square miles wide, the Flexblue is tiny. It's only 300 feet long, and less than 50 feet wide.
Each Flexblue includes a small nuclear reactor, steam turbine-alternator set, plus electrical equipment that allows the electricity to be carried to the coast. Added up, each one weighs about 12,000 tons. Unlike the wind turbines that some people don't like to see out of their windows, the Flexblue nuclear plants would be under water several miles out to sea. How far out each one can be placed is unclear, but they are designed to be under 180 to 300 feet of water.
So, is it a good idea to be placing nuclear plants under the ocean surface, or should we keep them on land?