Nuclear power plants have been placed in rock caverns in Europe in the past, the largest being the 300 MW SENA plant located at Chooz, France. This plant, licensed in 1962, is located in a concrete lined cavern 25 meters (82 ft.) wide. In the 13 years it has been operating, the SENA plant has had an impressively high availability and load factor. In the same 13 years, the size of nuclear power plants has increased dramatically, and environmental and safety consideration have become more complex. The State of California Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission (CERCDC) as undertaken a study to determine if, under today''s siting and licensing requirements, the location of nuclear power plants in rock caverns results in any improvement in real safety, whether underground nuclear plants can be reliably designed and the estimated costs for placing a plant into various alternative situations. Underground Design Consultants (UDC), a permanent joint venture of the authors firms, was retained by the CERDC to prepare a conceptual design and cost estimate (1) for a 1,300 MW(e) nuclear power plant constructed in a granite foothill location. The UDC plant equipment layout was split into three functional groupings. Each group was housed in its own separate cavern, as shown in Figure 1. Thereactor cavern houses the nuclear steam supply system, including the steam generators and the primary coolant system. The auxiliary cavern houses many of the functions that needed to be near the reactor but need not be subjected to the same containment provisions. The widest cavern is the one required for the nuclear reactor. The nuclear engineers on the project have concluded that the narrowest span for a 1300 MW plant would require a clear span of 28 m (95 ft).

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