Potential for new generation of nuclear-powered commercial tankers

Members of new research consortium, which includes Lloyd’s Register, Enterprises Shipping and Trading, Hyperion Power Generation and BMT, to examine the marine applications for small modular reactors (SMRs)

A consortium of British, American and Greek interests have agreed to investigate the practical maritime applications for small modular reactors as commercial tanker-owners search for new designs that could deliver safer, cleaner and commercially viable forms of propulsion for the global fleet.

The Strategic Research Group at Lloyd’s Register, Hyperion Power Generation Inc, British designer BMT Nigel Gee and Greek ship operator Enterprises Shipping and Trading SA are to lead the research into nuclear propulsion, which they believe is technically feasible and has the potential to drastically reduce the CO2 emissions caused by commercial shipping.

“This a very exciting project,” said Lloyd’s Register CEO, Richard Sadler. “We believe that as society recognises the limited choices available in the low-carbon, oil-scarce economy — and as land-based nuclear plants become common place — we will see nuclear ships on specific trade routes sooner than many people currently anticipate.”

The agreement for the joint industry project was signed today at the offices of Enterprises Shipping and Trading in Athens, Greece.

Enterprises’ Victor Restis said: “Despite the fact that shipping contributes much less to the world’s atmospheric pollution than other shore-based industries, we believe that no effort is too great when it comes to safeguarding a better world for future generations. We are extremely honoured and proud to be part of this consortium at this historic event, as we strongly believe that alternative power generation is the answer for shipping transportation.”

The consortium believes that SMRs, with a thermal power output of more than 68 megawatts, have the potential to be used as a plug-in nuclear ‘battery’.

The research is intended to produce a concept tanker-ship design based on conventional and ‘modular’ concepts. Special attention will be paid to analysis of a vessel’s lifecycle cost as well as to hull-form designs and structural layout, including grounding and collision protection.

“We are enthusiastic about participating in the historic opportunity presented by this truly groundbreaking consortium,” said John R. ‘Grizz’ Deal, the CEO of Hyperion Power. “In addition to fitting the basic requirements as the model for studying the application of SMRs in commercial naval propulsion, the Hyperion Power Module [HPM] can also help to set new nuclear maritime standards. The HPM’s design includes a non-pressurised vessel, and non-reactive coolant. These features, among others in the HPM, should encourage the industry to strive for even higher levels of inherent safety in their models.”

International shipping has been identified as a significant global contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, and it is under mounting pressure to contribute to overall emission reductions. There is an ongoing debate about how much the sector will be able to reduce those emissions, while continuing to support the forecast expansion in world trade that it enables.

“Nuclear propulsion offers the opportunity for an emissions-free alternative to fossil fuel, whist delivering ancillary benefits and security to the maritime industry,” said Dr Phil Thompson, Sector Director — Transport, for the BMT Group. “We look forward to using our wide range of maritime skills and expertise to identify the through-life implications, risks and potential for developing and using SMRs in the civilian maritime environment and to provide a framework for its safe and reliable introduction and utilisation.”

Source: Lloyd’s Register

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Potential for new generation of nuclear-powered commercial tankers

  1. James Brinton

    As an ex-Naval officer, I would be concerned about nuclear material falling into the hands of groups like the Somali pirates. That would be a hole in our non-proliferation strategy. Reactor design, and design of the vessel itself, should take that into account. I can think of a variety of approaches to that. Reactors using elements such as Thorium, from which bomb-grade materials cannot be made, would be one. And more to the point, since ships could be hijacked in port, or simply purchased to gain access to radioactive materials. Control will be a major issue with this technology,

  2. jimp25210

    Thorium would be a good idea – so would fusion. And while the technology for thorium is certainly further along development-wise than fusion, the infrastructure for a thorium fuel cycle is not. So thorium is just as realistic an option as a fusion reactor in any commercial application.

    The nuclear fuel in a Hyperion Power Module is no more suited for weapons manufacture than raw uranium which is much more accessible to your average Somali pirate.

    I think its a fairly safe bet that control and non-proliferation safeguards will be an integral part of the work of this consortium.

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