Environmental disturbances and risks of surface nuclear energy production can be considerably reduced by locating all the components of the system underground. Reactors and turbines and also intermediate and final storage for spent fuel are then linked together by tunnels. Surface transports of radioactive fuel and waste are thus eliminated. Safety in handling, transportation and storage is improved. The halls for the reactors and turbines will need caverns with large spans and a rock cover of 40–70 m. Such caverns can also be built in medium-rated rock masses using the Rib-in-Roc method. The risk of polluting the surface environment with radioactivity after a core meltdown and vessel collapse can be considerably reduced by using safety tunnels filled with crushed rock. The contaminated gas can then expand into these tunnels instead of reaching the atmosphere.


Umweltzerstörung and Risiken von Kernenenergieproduktion an der Erdoberflache können erheblich reduziert werden, wenn alle Teile des Systems underirdisch lokalisiert werden. Reaktoren, Turbinen and auch Zwischen- and Endlager fuer verbrauchten Brennstoff sind durch Tunnels miteinander verbunden. Dadurch werden Oberflachentransporte von radioaktivem Brennstoff and Abfall vermieden. Die Sicherheit von Hantierung, Transport and Lagerung wird verbessert. Fuer die Reaktor- and Turbinenhallen werden Kavernen mit grosser Spannweite and einer Gesteinsdecke von 40–70 m benatigt. Solche Kavernen können auch in Bergmassen von mittlerer QualitRt unter Ausnutzung der Rib-in-Roc Methode gebaut werden. Das bei einer Herdschmelze and Kollaps der Reaktoreinschliessung bestehende Risiko der Oberflachenumweltverschmutzung mit RadioaktivitRt kann durch Einbau von mit gebrochenen Gesteinmassen gefuellten Sicherheitstunneln erheblich reduziert werden. Die giftigen Gase können dann in diese Tunnels expandieren, anstatt in die Erdathmosphare zu entweichen.


Les nuisances et risques de 1''environnement de la production d''energie nucleaire à la surface peuvent etre considerablement reduits en plaçant sous terre tous les composants du système. Les reacteurs et turbines ainsi que le stockage intermêdiaire et final de combustible utilise sont ensuite relies par des tunnels. Les transports de surface de combustible radioactif et de dechets sont ainsi elimines. La securite dans la manutention, transport et stockage est amelioree. Les salles pour les reacteurs et turbines necessiteront des cavernes à grandes ouvertures et une couverture de roche de 40–70 m. De telles cavernes peuvent aussi être construites dans des masses de roche de qualite moyenne, en utilisant la methode Rib-in-Roc. Le risque de pollution en surface par radioactivite après une fusion du coeur et un effondrement de l''enceinte peut etre reduit considerablement par la mise en oeuvre de tunnels de securite remplis de roche broyee. Le gaz pollue se dilate ensuite dans ces tunnels sans atteindre 1''atmosphère.


Nuclear power production in an underground chain has many advantages. Some are as follows:

  • *

    better land use, improved aesthetics and simplified decommissioning

  • *

    possibilities for siting near new urban areas

  • *

    safe handling, transportation and storage of radioactive fuel and waste

  • *

    controlled and limited outlet of radioactive gases and particles after a core meltdown and reactor tank failure

  • *

    good protection against sabotage, earthquakes and acts of war


In many countries, for example the U.S. and Sweden, the first era of nuclear power is nearly over. In the U.S. no new nuclear reactors have been ordered since 1978 (Weinberg, 1982) and previous orders for 60 new reactors have been cancelled. In connection with the safety of nuclear power, a widespread feeling of distrust has been aroused in the public sector, reaching a peak after the accident at Three Mile Island. This in turn has led to a situation where many countries have temporarily halted further development of their nuclear power technology. In Sweden, the future of nuclear power became the subject for a referendum. It was decided that Sweden would build twelve reactors at four sites over a period of about 30 years. Of course, this decision could only be based upon the nuclear technology which was then available for public presentation. It can be argued that nuclear energy has many advantages over conventional energy sources like oil and gas. However, it is likely that public acceptance can only be achieved by major improvements in the environmental safety of nuclear energy. One method of improving the environmental safety would be to locate the nuclear power production plant in an underground chain. It is often stated that public concern about safety of nuclear plants is emotional rather than rational. However, it should be noted that, since the 1960 - s the Supreme Military Command in Sweden has recommended that nuclear power plants be placed in rock caverns.


The basic idea behind nuclear power production in an underground chain is to locate the individual components in rock caverns and connect them with transport tunnels, Fig 1. The plant is reached by access tunnels from the surface. These tunnels can be protected against weapon effects.

This content is only available via PDF.
You can access this article if you purchase or spend a download.