If we are to put a dent in coal’s dominance of electricity production, we will need 100 one GWe ThorCons per year for the foreseeable future. We need a system for producing nuclear power plants, not individual fortresses. Fortunately such a system exists. It’s called a shipyard.
ThorCon’s genesis is in ship production. This photo shows the Hellespont Metropolis, one of eight ships built by ThorCon’s predecessor company. This ship is the largest double hull tanker ever built. She can carry 440,000 tons of oil. Her steel weight is 67,000 tons. She required 700,000 man-hours of direct labor, a little more than 10 man-hours per ton of ship steel. About 40% of this was expended on hull steel; the rest on outfitting. She was built in less than 12 months and cost 89 million dollars in 2002.
A good shipyard needs about 5 man-hours to cut, weld, coat, and erect a ton of hull steel. The yards achieve this remarkable productivity by block construction. Sub-assemblies are produced on a panel line, and combined into fully coated blocks with piping, wiring, HVAC pre-installed. In the last step, the blocks, weighing as much as 600 tons, are dropped into place in an immense building dock.
ThorCon uses exactly the same production process except the blocks are barged to the site and dropped into place. The essential difference between shipyards and most other assembly lines, such as aircraft manufacturing, is that shipyards build blocks on the assembly line, not the final product. The final product is put together elsewhere. Thinking in terms of blocks rather than final product is a key element in the ThorCon philosophy.
Block construction is not just about productivity. It’s about quality. Very tight dimensional control is automatically enforced. Extensive inspection and testing at the sub-assembly and block level is an essential part of the yard system. Inspection at the block level can be thorough and efficient. Defects are caught early and can be corrected far more easily than after erection. In most cases, they will have no impact on the overall project schedule.
ThorCon is designed to bring shipyard quality and productivity to nuclear power.