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Potential Advantages of Underground Nuclear Parks

[+] Author Affiliations
Carl W. Myers

Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, NM

Ned Z. Elkins

Los Alamos National Laboratory, Carlsbad, NM

Jay F. Kunze, James M. Mahar

Idaho State University, Pocatello, ID

Paper No. ICONE14-89133, pp. 363-372; 10 pages
  • 14th International Conference on Nuclear Engineering
  • Volume 3: Structural Integrity; Nuclear Engineering Advances; Next Generation Systems; Near Term Deployment and Promotion of Nuclear Energy
  • Miami, Florida, USA, July 17–20, 2006
  • Conference Sponsors: Nuclear Engineering Division
  • ISBN: 0-7918-4244-4 | eISBN: 0-7918-3783-1
  • Copyright © 2006 by ASME


In this paper we argue that an underground nuclear park (UNP) could potentially lead to lower capital and operating cost for the reactors installed in the UNP compared to the traditional approach, which would be to site the reactors at the earth’s surface at distributed locations. The UNP approach could also lead to lower waste management cost. A secondary benefit would be the increased margins of safety and security that would be realized simply as a consequence of siting the reactors underground. Lowered capital and operating cost for a UNP relative to traditional reactor siting is possible through the aggregate effect of the elimination of containment structures, in-place decommissioning, reduced physical security costs, reduced weather-related costs, reduced cost of liability insurance and reduced unit-cost for the nth reactor made possible through the continuous construction of multiple reactors at the same underground location. Other cost reductions might be possible through the transfer of the capital cost for part of the underground construction from the reactor owners to the owners of the UNP. Lower waste management cost is possible by siting the UNP at a location where there are geological and hydrological conditions suitable for hosting both the reactors and the repository for the waste from those reactors. After adequate storage and cooling, and assuming direct disposal, this would enable the spent fuel from the reactors to be transported directly to the repository and remain entirely underground during the transport process. Community concerns and transportation costs would be significantly reduced relative to current situations where the reactors are separated from the repository by long distances and populated areas. The concept for a UNP in bedded salt is used to develop a rough order of magnitude cost estimate for excavation of the reactor array portion of a UNP. Excavation costs appear to be only a small fraction of the overall power plant costs for an UNP in salt. Many engineering, safety, environmental, regulatory and cost-benefit and technical issues related to the UNP concept need to be evaluated.

Copyright © 2006 by ASME



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