Unveiled at the Seatrade Cruise Global event in Miami, the key feature of the 149 meter long Ulstein Thor concept vessel is a thorium molten salt reactor — or MSR. Ulstein says the reactor “will generate generate vast amounts of clean, safe electricity,” enabling Thor to operate as a mobile power/charging station for a new breed of battery driven cruise ships. Those Ulstein Sif concept vessels are 100 meter long, 160 passenger and crew capacity Ice Class 1C expedition cruise ship that will run on next-generation batteries.
Recharging would be carried out by autonomous tender vessels that would charge up from Thor then shuttle across to charge the cruise ships.
Scaled to charge four expedition ships simultaneously, Thor features helicopter pads, firefighting equipment, rescue booms, workboats, autonomous surface vehicles and airborne drones, cranes, laboratories, and a lecture lounge.
Called a 3R (Replenishment, Research and Rescue) design, when not acting as a floating charging station and resupply depot, Thor is equipped to facilitate rescue operations and conducting research tasks.
Hardly surprisingly, both Thor and Sif feature the Ulstein X-bow.
“We have the goals, ambition and environmental imperative to switch to zero-emission operations, but, until now, we haven’t had the solution,” said Ulstein CEO Cathrine Kristiseter Marti. “We believe Thor might be the answer we’ve been looking for. Thor is essentially a floating, multi-purpose ‘power station’ that will enable a new battery revolution.”
MOLTEN SALT REACTORS
According to Ulstein, “MSRs are safe, efficient and operationally proven solutions that work by dissolving thorium – an abundant, naturally occurring metal with low radioactivity – in liquid salt. The ensuing chain reaction heats the salt, producing steam to drive a turbine and create electricity. Although developments on land are well documented, its potential for delivering clean maritime power has yet to be incorporated into a vessel design.”
Jan Emblemsvåg, a professor at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, and an expert in the field of thorium and nuclear power generation, notes: “MSRs have enormous potential for enabling clean shipping. There is so much uncertainty over future fuels, but here we have an abundant energy source that, with the right approach, can be safe, much more efficient, cheaper, with a smaller environmental footprint than any existing alternative.”
“From my perspective, I see this as the most viable, and potentially the only credible, solution for a zero-emission fleet that can operate under commercial terms and cost levels,” he says. “The Thor concept is exactly the kind of innovation we need for sustainable success at sea.”
Emblemsvåg has written a paper on the subject of the potential of MSRs for shipping. You can download it HERE