The purpose of this paper is to review a number of design proposals and to summarize and assess the current state of the art in underground nuclear power plant design. In addition Some conclusions is drawn and a model of a safe nuclear power plant underground is suggested.


Underground siting of nuclear power stations has drawn increasing attention in various parts of the World. European countries took the early lead in this field because they have experience in the design and construction of underground hydroelectric stations and industrial plants, and because they have near-surface rock formations which are ideally suited for hosting large underground caverns. The world's first underground nuclear facilities were built in Norway (Halden) and was commissioned in 1959. Recent feasibility studies in a number of countries have proposed conceptual designs for full scale nuclear power stations sited in either mined-rock cavities or in shallow excavations covered with backfill (pit siting). These investigations, primarily in European and North American countries, have revealed a number of potential benefits of underground siting: improved containment of radionuclides under extreme accident conditions, increased station protection and security, reduction in seismic loading on nuclear equipment and structures. These benefits, however, could be realized only in combination with higher station construction costs and certain operational penalties. Because the above investigations were based on a number of different basic reactor designs and were geared to different national regulatory standards and different geological environments, a wide variety of underground design concepts have evolved. The purpose of this paper is to review a number of these design proposals and to summarize and assess the current state of the art in underground nuclear plant design. In addition, the paper attempts to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of this unique siting concept, as identified in the various investigations, and to draw some conclusions to assist energy planners in making decisions on the complex issue.


This section reviews the more recent and prominent feasibility studies in several North American and European countries. It is impossible, in the allocated space, to do more than highlight the major design features, economic implications, and general conclusions which were derived by these investigators and agencies.

2.1 United States

The early feasibility studies of underground nuclear plant siting in the United States were carried out as joint efforts by the Aerospace Corporations/California Institute of Technology (1972) and by United Engineers/Acres American (1974). Both of these studies were preliminary first cut attempts at providing a broad but cursary evaluation of underground siting. Conceptual plant designs were not developed beyond the stage of a general plant arrangement and thus evaluations of the plant safety and economics were very qualitative. Nevertheless, the tone of these early reports was clearly optimistic and prompted other agencies to take a closer, more detailed look at the concept. In 1977 Sandia Laboratories, under contract with the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, carried out a technical assessment of the potential benefits and penalties associated with underground siting of nuclear power plants.

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