The UK-based Core Power has reached its $100 million funding milestone to develop new nuclear technology for the maritime industry.
The funding has been provided by the shipping industry, shipyards, shipowners, charterers, etc, according to the company’s CEO, Mikael Boe, with a large share coming from Japanese backers. The milestone comes at a time when nuclear power is getting more attention in the maritime industry as an interesting and feasible solution to decarbonize.
Core Power, established in 2018, specializes in scalable atomic power technology for ocean transport and heavy industry. The company is working on the development of a modular molten salt reactor (MSR) to propel ships and provide energy for manufacturing blue and green fuels.
The company has also shown how ‘green fuel‘ for shipping can be produced at low cost using a floating nuclear power plant design combined with an ‘ammonia refinery‘ at either end of green corridors being proposed in the Clydebank declaration.
The technology the company is working on with the support of the U.S. government and its partners TerraPower, Southern Company, and Orano, promises to be the world’s first fast spectrum liquid-fueled reactor with demonstration expected post-2026. The molten chloride fast reactor would be operating on ambient pressure and it has been described as having exceptional fuel efficiency and minimal waste output of 1 gram per MW a day.
Core Power’s CEO explains that MSR technology differs from conventional nuclear power and that it resolves key issues key to the decarbonization of shipping, as they provide a new level of fuel efficiency that can fuel assets for life (25-30 years). Furthermore, since these are rather small machines (modular 180 MWth design) they could be mass-produced and easily scalable and thus affordable.
The world’s biggest ships can benefit the most from the technology, according to Boe.
The company is working on the development of several designs of nuclear electric ships. One of those includes a 20,000 TEU ultra-large container vessel that would be able to sail faster (30+knots) without refueling for 30 years.
What is more, since the ship wouldn’t have fuel tanks and would require a smaller engine room, and no chimney it would be able to carry more cargo per voyage.
“We believe that the way these new types of reactors can make these ships more competitive is by having them completely immune to carbon taxation, being able to carry more cargo, faster and for a longer period,” Bøe explained in a recent webinar on the role of nuclear power in shipping’s path toward net zero.
South Korea, home to the world’s largest shipbuilders, is emerging as a strong supporter of nuclear technology and research and demonstration projects looking into the potential of nuclear power for the maritime industry and production of green fuels.
Earlier this month, Samsung Heavy Industries (SHI) teamed up with a Denmark-based startup focused on nuclear reactor technology Seaborg Technologies and Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power (KHNP), an owner and operator of nuclear power plants, in a consortium that aims to develop floating nuclear power plants.
SHI and Seaborg have already launched cooperation in the field. Namely, last year the duo entered into a partnership to develop floating nuclear power plants using CMSR tech.
The companies are also targeting hydrogen production plants and ammonia plants, as the CMSR is said to be an ideal power source for the supply of stable, clean, and safe electricity.
Korea Shipbuilding & Offshore Engineering (KSOE) has also unveiled the design of a small modular reactor (SMR)-powered ship recently.
The design involves a 240 megawatt (MW) SMR-powered ship, featuring four sets of 60-megawatt 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.
KSOE’s move into SMR technology is not its first foray into the field. In November 2022, the company invested US$30 million (approximately 42.5 billion won) in TerraPower, an SMR company founded by Microsoft founder Bill Gates. The project aims to build an SMR in the state of Wyoming in the United States by 2030.
Moreover, under a recently signed MoU, South Korean industry majors led by Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute, the Korean Research Institute of Ship & Ocean Engineering (KRISO), the Korean Register, Wooyang Shipping Co, Sinokor, H-Line, and HMM, among others, joined forces on a demonstration of how small modular nuclear reactors can be used to propel ships.
The project will also investigate the development of relevant marine system interface and propulsion technology as well as the production of hydrogen using molten salt reactors.