How does a Nuclear Power Plant on Ship Work?
A large motivating factor in nuclear power generation is the concept of re-usable energy prompting an almost self-sustaining system.
The energy generating house or propulsion plant of a nuclear powered ship utilizes a nuclear reactor to generate heat. The heat is generated within the nuclear reactor as a result of the fissioning of the nuclear fuel. Lead shields are placed around the reactor as a preventive measure against the radiation produced from the fissioning process.
The nuclear propulsion plant operates as a pressurized water reactor design containing both a primary and secondary system.
Primary system: This is where water is circulated through the reactor, piping loops, pumps and steam generators. As the heat transferred from the reactor to the water is done at such a high pressure, it does not boil. Instead, the water is pumped from the steam generator back to the reactor for re-heating.
Secondary system: Steam which is produced at the steam generators supply the energy required to drive the turbine generators. The turbine generators then cause the propeller to rotate thereby causing thrust and a forward motion to the ship. Turbine generators are also utilized in supplying the ship with electricity. Once the steam has passed through the turbines, it is cooled and condensed into water and then fed back to the steam generators by the feed pumps.
As can be noted, both the primary and secondary systems involve the recirculation and renewal of water.
It should also be noted that these processes take place in a completely closed system. This ensures the safety of the onboard workers as well as any potential expulsion of radiated nuclear energy to nearby components and parts of the ship.