Nuclear powered dredges could be used for future canal projects

Large canal projects like the Nicaragua canal or the Thailand (kra) canal could see the utilization of floating nuclear reactors (like the Russian reactors) to power barge dredgers. Seven floating nuclear reactors are expected by 2015. The floating power stations need to be refueled every three years while saving up to 200,000 metric tons of coal and 100,000 tons of fuel oil a year.

Nuclear power dredge designs have been proposed. One concept is based on a seagoing, self-propelled, hydraulic cutter-head dredge capable of sailing under its own power to Thailand. The greatest advantage over all existing barge-like floating dredges is due to the absence of large onboard oil bunkers and freshwater tanks. Heavy minerals (columbite, magnetite, ilmenite, rutile, zircon) – identified and sorted during post-excavation spoils distribution – can then be pumped via flexible pipelines or floating conveyor-belts from or to bank-side portable extraction machines (with appropriate holding bins), making it unnecessary to have any onboard bulk material storage accommodation.

Each vessel would be equipped with 4 retractable cutter-head dredge pumps that can be enclosed by streamlined bow doors as on extant car ferries. A nuclear reactor would power the dredge and the other equipment.

The Russian floating nuclear power stations are non-self-propelled vessels with a length of 144.4 metres (474 ft), width of 30 metres (98 ft), height of 10 metres (33 ft), and draught of 5.6 metres (18 ft). The vessel has a displacement of 21,500 tonnes and a crew of 69 people.

Each vessel has two modified KLT-40 naval propulsion reactors together providing up to 70 MW of electricity or 300 MW of heat, enough for a city with a population of 200,000 people.