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Floating Nuclear Power Buoyant on New Prospects

February 1, 2023

In July 1968, the U.S. Army sent the world’s first floating nuclear power plant, the Sturgis, to the Panama Canal to help overcome a regional hydroelectric power plant shortage, which was driven by a severe drought and worsened by increased ship traffic through the Canal zone. The Sturgis (Figure 1) featured a 45-MWth/10-MWe MH-IA pressurized water reactor (PWR)—the last reactor the Army fashioned—and it operated until 1976, five years longer than initially anticipated. It produced 356 GWh until the military withdrew it from the area amid concerns that acts of violence might damage it during treaty negotiations between the U.S. and Panama.

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