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Author Topic: Could we use decomissioned nuclear submarines for energy generation?  (Read 7045 times)

Alan Jenkins

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Alan Jenkins  asked the Naked Scientists:

Hi Chris,
 
I have often wondered why we in South Africa are not able to use nuclear power plants that are available in obsolete and decommissioned submarines. I have proposed this idea to Eskom our electricity provider a year ago and received no reply.

There are a number of examples around the world of offshore nuclear power plants on board floating platforms supplying electricity to on land based grids. Is this not a quick fix option for SA electricity supply crises.

Kind regards
 
Alan Jenkins

What do you think?


 

lyner

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I've never heard of such a scheme but every waste nuclear fuel dump generates a large amount of heat - but at low temperature. This wouldn't be much use for power generation (steam gas turbines)  but it could keep people warm - if they were prepared to live near the dump - with a low tech / low pressure (= relatively safe)  circulation system.
 

Offline RD

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In such a scheme domestic radiators wouldn't just radiate heat.


 

Offline MyMilitaryYears2

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Nuclear powered submarines can stay underwater and operate literally as long as the food for the crew holds out. This is unlike a conventional submarine that must surface, exposing it to detection, to recharge the boat's batteries.




newbielink:http://www.mymilitaryyears.com/ [nonactive]
 

lyner

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In such a scheme domestic radiators wouldn't just radiate heat.

Some appropriate series of heat exchangers would have to be used - even in Russia!
 

Offline Bored chemist

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I don't think the power output of a nuclear sub would go very far.
The question has been looked into.
http://www.springerlink.com/content/l106n236899102p2/
 

Offline LeeE

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I believe that some subs have been jury-rigged to do exactly this in some of the remote parts of the old USSR.
 

Offline CliffordK

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I have also thought that as a society, we should be better at re-using equipment.

I read that the Ural (Project 1941 (Titan)) ship (not sub) was used as a nuclear power plant in Russia for a while.  However, I believe that it has now been decommissioned and dismantled. 

I would imagine that neither the USA or Russia would be willing to release control of a Nuclear warship or submarine to an African nation.  As the vessels age, the whole vessel would likely require significant maintenance, and one likely could not just maintain the reactors without maintaining significant other parts of the ship. 

Recent events in Japan have highlighted the vulnerability of nuclear power plants, so a poorly maintained ship in a permanent mooring could be a danger in the event of a large storm or tsunami.

I had thought that a nuclear ship (or sub) should have been used in the emergency response after hurricane Katrina.  One of the issues after the hurricane was that the power grid was damaged, and they were having difficulties running the pumping system.  A nuclear ship should have been able to supplement those power needs, assuming the power outputs could be made to be compatible. 
 

Offline CZARCAR

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duh, why are nuke subs decommissioned in the first place?
 

Offline CliffordK

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duh, why are nuke subs decommissioned in the first place?

Because the military couldn't justify buying new ones if they don't get rid of the old ones.

The list of decommissioned nuclear vessels from the USA is a long list.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_Powered_Ship_and_Submarine_Recycling_Program

Certainly the requirements of a navy change over time.  And, technological advancements in weaponry would require periodic refits of the ships.  Asbestos and toxins aboard the vessels extend far beyond the nuclear propulsion.

Many of the subs seem to be decommissioned due to changes in tactical nuclear weapon stockpiles.

Certainly civilian nuclear power plants need periodic refueling, repairs, and upgrades.  The same would be true about nuclear vessels.  If a sub is deemed unsafe for diving, it doesn't mean that it would be unsafe for surface propulsion, or mooring.
 

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