January 20, 2011
France has taken the idea of “moving industry offshore” and given it a new twist – plant small nuclear reactors in the seabed and pump the electricity back on land. Called “Flexblue,” the underwater system could provide a large portion of the world’s energy.
“The cylinder with the power plant inside would be lowered to the seabed at a depth of 60 meters (196 feet) to 100 meters, at a site between five and 15 kilometers from the coast,” Patrick Boissier, CEO of the French construction company, DCNS, tells Platts. “Undersea cables would bring the electricity to customers on shore.” Boissier notes that three-quarters of the world’s population lives within 80 km of the sea.
DCNS, which does construction for the French Navy, will join Areva, EDF and the CEA research and development organization in exploring the idea, according to an announcement made in Paris yesterday. “The technical, economic and market feasibility study will be conducted over the next two years by 100-150 people from DCNS and the nuclear organizations, after which a decision could be made to build a prototype,” says Platts. “Boissier said a submerged power plant, unlike a floating one, would not be vulnerable to earthquakes, tsunamis, or floods, and would be far less vulnerable to voluntary attack.” It would also have an unlimited source of coolant and would create a minimal environmental footprint. Areva already builds 100-MW small reactors for French submarines and aircraft carriers and said it would be fairly easy to adapt Flexblue from this prototype.
The French project should serve as a warning to American political officials, who also have big dreams about small reactors but are reluctant to streamline regulatory procedures that now make such initiatives a decade-long ordeal. The French are not the only ones who are going to be building small reactors. The rest of the world knows the technology too.
Read more about it at Platt’s