At a symposium held by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers this week, a team of MIT engineers will present an idea that seems to tempt fate: A floating nuclear reactor, anchored out at sea, that would be immune to tsunamis and earthquakes. Is it really that crazy of a plan?
First, here’s what they’re proposing. MIT professors Jacopo Buongiorno, Michael Golay, and Neil Todreas are the authors of a paper that describes a massive reactor that’s built in a shipyard, then towed out to sea like an oil platform. A few miles off the coast, the reactor would be anchored in a single spot, feeding the power it produces back to the cities on the shore.
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Russia is already building a floating reactor, as Buongiorno points out, but there are some key differences that he says gives their plan “crucial advantages.” First, MIT’s design isn’t so much a ship that moves around but an anchored platform, which means it’s never in a situation where a tsunami or earthquake could affect it.