Consortium explores nuclear power for ships

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atomic-symbolNuclear powered merchant ships could be sailing again sooner than many might suppose.

That’s the view of Lloyd’s Register CEO Richard Sadler. The classification society is a member of a newly formed research consortium formed to explore the marine applications for small modular reactors (SMRs).

“This a very exciting project,” said Sadler. “We believe that as society recognizes 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.”

In addition to the Strategic Research Group at Lloyd’s Register, other consortium members include Hyperion Power Generation Inc., Santa Fe, N.M., British designer BMT Nigel Gee and Greek ship operator Enterprises Shipping and Trading SA.

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 honored 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-pressurized 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.”

Hyperion Power Generation, Inc. (HPG) was formed to bring to market the Hyperion (formerly Comstar) small, modular, non-weapons grade nuclear power reactor invented by Dr. Otis “Pete”‘ Peterson at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in New Mexico. Through the commercialization program at LANL’s Technology Transfer Division, HPG was awarded the exclusive license to utilize the intellectual property and develop a product that will benefit the U.S. economy and global society as a whole.

“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 utilization.”

November 15, 2010

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