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The U.S. Navy seems to operate a bunch of floating (and some submersible) nuclear power plants in the ocean without too much trouble.

Here’s a list of sunken U.S. and Soviet nuclear submarines. And by “nuclear”, it means propulsion/reactor, not just nuclear warheads.


And as far as I can tell, none if those nuclear reactors have been leaking radioactive material. The fact that close to a dozen nuclear power plants have been sent to the bottom of the ocean and have maintained their integrity is testament to just how safe nuclear power is when implemented correctly.

But how long will the containment stay effective, and will it be effective longer than the nuclear activity and risk it contains?

These subs are continuously monitored. Articles on the internet say Kursk had a minor leak that was quickly repaired, without coming close to any health concerns.

Remember nuclear pressure vessels are subject to some of the most harsh conditions when in operation. They're built to withstand contact with extremely hot water under pressure. Will salt water eventually corrode through it? Maybe. But remember energy through fossil fuels and organic matter kill 3 and 4 million people per year respectively. Those concerned with nuclear safety often fall into the fallacy of letting perfect be the enemy of good. The best solution is the least-bad solution.

Keep in mind we've also blown up 500+ nuclear bombs including almost 10 underwater. Not a great idea in hindsight, but overall we didn't experience any major problems as a result.

Seems like even in the worst and extremely unlikely scenario of full detonation, we'd still be fine.

> overall we didn't experience any major problems as a result.

Some Marshall Islanders would like a word[0]

[0] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/mar/02/bikini-atoll-n...

The difference is that those tests were done on or near land, the fallout settled either on land or in shallow water, close to marine life.

The explosions which happened in deep water (Wigwam in 1955 for instance) had practically zero lasting effects beyond radioactive steam entering the atmosphere.

The scale is a little different though. Say a 300MW submarine reactor runs for 10 years, the energy produced is about 20 megatons. The energy in a bomb might be 400 kt, half of it from fission, so the reactor will contain a hundred times more spent fuel.

We've blown up nukes all the way to 50Mt. But granted, the underwater tests were in the kt ranges.


Of the nine sinkings, two were caused by fires, two by explosions of their weapons systems, two by flooding, one by bad weather, and one by scuttling due to a damaged nuclear reactor.


Well we all know the one scuttled due to damaged reactor was actually a cover story for defecting with first strike technology to the Americans...

No one got the reference. Unfortunate.

(for those looking, it's to the movie The Hunt for Red October)

...and to live in Montana, owning a pickup truck..

with two wives!

and yet despite that, we have yet to see significant effects on any of our daily lives from any of it.

Well that's a glib way of evaluating anything. I'd be concerned about the impact on sea life here.

School shootings in the USA and ISIS beheadings don't affect my daily life, either.

Effects would be on sea life far removed from our daily lives. Seafood can be imported from other locations.

That we know of

The sites are well studied.

There are no diesel electric ballistic missile submarines, with only two probable exceptions being North Korea and Israel

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure the scale is much different.

Not too different. Subs can be a few hundred megawatts, vs. a few thousand in power plants.

Only an order of magnitude or two.

There are no single reactors putting out tens of GW, so just one (at most).

You can fit about 2 GW-scale AP1000 reactors on a big ship.

But what about scale? Sub reactors are tiny! Never more than a few hundred MW, with relatively little fuel.

Typical powerplant reactors operate in the TWs.

Your scale is off a bit. The Fukishima reactors were 484 MW to 1.1GW. Diablo Canyon, a fairly "new" (and now unused) Nuclear reactor setup in California were both units under 1.2GW. The reactors on the "Ford" class aircraft carriers are reported to produce about 700MW each.

Arg, I can't believe I brain-fumbled that. I meant to type GW. Wish I could still edit.

Yes, it's 1-2 orders of magnitude.

*Typical power plants reactors operate in the GW, not TW. So there's about an order of magnitude difference between subs and power plants, not 4 orders of magnitude.

Without too much trouble that we know of. And a small number of small reactors.

I think it is extremely irresonsible to build military equipment with nuclear reactors. They are destroyed in conflict, polluting everything.

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