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.”