Nuclear power plants are extremely expensive, time consuming, and energy/resource/labor intensive to construct. They are probably among the most involved and demanding construction projects on earth. Though they yield huge amounts of energy, they also take huge amounts of energy to actually build. Very few companies have the resources to undertake such a task.
This is not surprising, since harnessing something as powerful and potentially dangerous as nuclear energy takes large, intricate, well-reinforced structures.
In light of this, a very interesting article has been posted on Discovery News that is about a possible alternate way of thinking about nuclear power plant construction: modular construction.
There are numerous advantages to building a nuclear power plant with modular construction.
First, it would vastly cut down on costs and resource demands. Just imagine, hard construction projects are often problematic when it comes to resource transportation and utilization. Estimations get fudged, environmental variables could complicate things, resources could be underused and eventually wasted, the list could go on. Who knows what sorts of inefficiencies arise in a project as complicated and grandiose as that of a nuclear plant’s construction?
If a nuclear power plant could be planned in modules that could be premanufactured in a factory under controlled conditions, many variables that were previously unaccounted for could be kept under control. Resources would be more efficiently used. Engineering methods could be scrutinized and improved upon. Adverse weather conditions would not be a problem. The list goes on.
Also, there is talk of a possible “plug and play” approach. Modular power plants could be upgraded piece by piece with future advances in nuclear power, since the modules can be removed and replaced without being destroyed.
Some have questioned whether this would be safe. For the same reason modular homes and other modular buildings can be even more durable and feature higher quality: modular nuclear power plants can be manufactured in controlled conditions, usually in conditions where quality can be improved upon through design. Modular buildings usually feature more reinforcing materials as well, to endure potentially turbulent transportation to the build site. It is probable that power plants will be reinforced in this manner as well.
Another design aspect of the modular nuclear power plant could feature the reactors buried underground, which would have safety benefits.
The potential for reduced cost, higher quality, safer nuclear reactors could have favorable implications for energy in general, especially in developing countries that need the nuclear energy boost.
Seeking economy, sustainability, and increased efficiency, modular construction is becoming the new standard. Definitely a constructive trend, If I do say so myself. No pun intended.