Study explores shipping’s nuclear option

A new study by Herbert Engineering Corp. (HEC), commissioned by ABS, has explored the potential impact of introducing nuclear propulsion systems on commercial vessels, modelling operations on a 14,000 TEU container vessel and a 157,000 DWT Suezmax tanker.

The study, which included input from nuclear reactor developers, modelled the impact of two lead-cooled 30MW fast reactors on the container carrier, finding it would likely increase cargo capacity and operational speed while completely eliminating the need for refuelling during its entire 25-year lifespan.

On the Suezmax vessel, the study found that the addition of four 5MW heat-pipe microreactors, while decreasing cargo capacity, would raise operational speeds and only require refuelling once during its 25-year life. Both concept vessels would emit zero CO2.

“Our findings from this latest cutting-edge research underscore why the industry cannot afford to ignore the vast potential offered by nuclear propulsion both in terms of emissions reduction and operational efficiency,” said Christopher Wiernicki, ABS Chairman and CEO.

“A net-zero world is more easily realised through nuclear propulsion, and we are putting in place the foundations for that future today. Turning this into a practical reality will require significant public sector support and ABS is well placed to bring governments and industry together.”

“Advanced or small modular reactors address many of the issues traditionally associated with nuclear for commercial maritime use, with enhanced safety and efficiency, reduced cost and waste and proliferation prevention. Nevertheless, many questions need to be answered and it is critical that industry evaluate these technologies with a laser focus on safety.”

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has previously awarded ABS a contract to research barriers to the adoption of nuclear propulsion on commercial vessels and has contracted the class society to support research into thermal-electric integration of a nuclear propulsion system on a commercial vessel being carried out by the University of Texas.

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Rob O'Dwyer

Rob is Chief Network Officer and one of the founders of Smart Maritime Network. He also serves as Chairman of the Smart Maritime Council. Rob has worked in the maritime technology sector since 2005, managing editorial for a range of leading publications in the transport and logistics sector. Get in touch by email by clicking here, or on LinkedIn by clicking here.

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