HD Korea Shipbuilding & Offshore Engineering (KSOE), a subsidiary of South Korea’s HD Hyundai, is to collaborate in a nuclear shipping project with UK start-up Core Power and US Southern Company and TerraPower. This followed a joint research and technology exchange meeting at Terrapower’s headquarters in Washington DC.

The project will be based on TerraPower’s Molten Chloride Fast Reactor (MCFR) design, which uses molten chloride salt as both reactor coolant and fuel, which enables fast spectrum operation at higher temperatures than conventional reactors, generating electricity more efficiently. It also offers potential for process heat applications and thermal storage. A version of the MCFR – the m-MSR – is being developed for marine use. In October 2023, Southern Company, TerraPower and Core Power began pumped-salt operations in the Terrapower’s Integrated Effects Test (IET), as a step towards development of the MCFR.

The project was initiated by Southern Company and TerraPower under the US Department of Energy (DOE) Advanced Reactor Concepts (ARC-15) award, a multi-year effort to promote the design, construction and operation of Generation-IV nuclear reactors. ARC-15 involves a total project investment of $76m based on a 60-40% public-private cost share.

In November 2020, a team including Core Power, Southern Company, TerraPower and Orano USA applied to take part in cost-share risk reduction awards under DOE’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Programme to build a proof-of-concept for a medium-scale commercial-grade marine reactor based on molten salt reactor technology. That same month, HD Hyundai invested $30m in TerraPower. KSOE will send an R&D team to TerraPower in March.

KSOE is involved in other similar projects. In October 2023, KSOE and Kepco Engineering & Construction Company (Kepco E&C) received approval in principle (AIP) from the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) for a new design of a floating offshore nuclear power barge. HD KSOE’s design involves a 240 MW SMR-powered ship, featuring four sets of 60 MW SMRs. The vessel would be a floating SMR facility on the sea, with the SMR placed on the bottom and a platform on top that produces carbon-free fuel such as hydrogen.

In January, a memorandum of understanding was signed between Lloyd’s Register, Zodiac Maritime, KSOE and Kepco Engineering & Construction for development of nuclear-propelled ship designs, including bulk carriers and container ships. KSOE and Kepco E&C are to provide designs for future vessels and reactors and Lloyd’s Register will assess rule requirements for safe operation and regulatory compliance models. The project will enable shipping company Zodiac to evaluate ship specifications and voyage considerations around nuclear technology.

Various other shipping companies and organisations are also looking to develop nuclear-powered vessels. In 2021, the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) was awarded a contract by DOE to research barriers to the adoption of advanced nuclear propulsion on commercial vessels. The project addresses challenges to adopting new reactor technology in commercial maritime applications.

In February 2023, South Korean industry, led by the leaders in maritime transport Hyundai Merchant Marine (HMM) and Janggeum Merchant Marine (Sinokor), signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to develop nuclear-powered ships. These included the city of Gyeongju, Gyeongbuk province, Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI), Korean Research Institute of Ship & Ocean Engineering (KRISO), the Korean Registry of Shipping, Wooyang Merchant Marine and H Line Shipping as well as Sinokor and HMM.

In April 2023, Korea’s Samsung Heavy Industries formed a consortium to commercialise nuclear power ships in cooperation with Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Corp and Danish SMR developer Seaborg Technologies. In July, Seaborg signed a letter of intent with Norsk Kjernekraft to investigate the possible deployment of Seaborg’s CMSR in Norway. In October, Seaborg signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with PT Pertamina Power Indonesia to assess the scope of an initial project leading to the possible commercial deployment of Seaborg’s Compact Molten Salt Reactor (CMSR) Power Barge. Seaborg’s design is for modular CMSR power barges equipped with up to eight 100 MWe CMSRs, with an operational life of 24 years.

In May 2023 Core Power attracted Japanese investment for its floating NPP (FNPP) project. Some 13 companies, including Onomichi Dockyard and Imabari Shipbuilding, invested about $80m in the project, according to Nikkei Asia. Although Core released no statement on the development, it reproduced the Nikkei article on its website.

In July 2023, ABS commissioned US-based Herbert Engineering Corp (HEC) to investigate the potential of advanced modern reactor technology for commercial marine propulsion. At the same time, UK-based start-up nuclear technology company newcleo signed an agreement with Italy-based shipbuilder Fincantieri and certification multinational RINA, also based in Italy, to jointly study nuclear applications to the shipping industry.

More recently, in January, Canadian firm Prodigy Clean Energy and US-based Westinghouse said they were designing a transportable NPP (TNPP) featuring a Westinghouse eVinci microreactor with the aim of launching the first project in Canada by 2030. The TNPP will comprise 5 MWe eVinci microreactors installed on a floating Prodigy Microreactor Power Station.

Meanwhile, to date, the only operational purpose-built floating NPP is Rosatom’s 70 MWe/58 MWt Akademik Lomonosov moored at Pevek in Chukotka in the Russian Arctic Russia’s Far East, which began supplying heat and power to the region in May 2020. Rosatom is in the process of building several more for Arctic industrial sites.

Image courtesy of Core Power