UK-based company newcleo, which is developing clean and safe nuclear technology involving Generation IV reactors using nuclear waste as fuel, has signed an agreement with Italian-based shipbuilding group Fincantieri and classification society RINA.
The announcement follows the recent ABS study into nuclear ship propulsion, and could open a new era for nuclear as a viable alternative fuel for zero-carbon shipping. Under the terms of the agreement, the three companies are combining their expertise and innovation experience to carry out a feasibility study for nuclear applications to the shipping industry, including newcleo’s lead-cooled small modular reactors (SMRs) technology.
The deployment of newcleo’s innovative LFR (Lead-cooled Fast Reactor) for ship propulsion would involve placing a closed mini reactor on vessels as a small nuclear battery producing a 30MW electric output. This would require infrequent refuelling (only once every 10-15 years), very limited maintenance and easy replacement at end of life.
Using clean nuclear energy to power marine vessels would help rapidly decarbonise a sector grappling with huge fossil fuel consumption and its consequent carbon emissions. The shipping industry, via IMO’s MEPC80, has approved new targets for GHG emission reduction, to reach net-zero GHG emissions by or around (i.e. close to) 2050.
While the shipping industry still carries 90% of the world’s goods, and the fourth IMO GHG Study 2020 confirms that its CO2 emissions are less than 3% of the total global man-made CO2 emissions, the actions of the big players of this industry have the potential to drive trends and markets.
Also, using nuclear power on ships would safeguard the marine ecosystem in the event of an accident. With newcleo’s design the liquid lead inside the reactor would solidify as it cools down in contact with the cold water, enclosing the reactor core in a solid casing, and containing all radiation thanks to the shielding properties of lead.
Finally, the newcleo naval propulsion reactors would eliminate the current need for frequent refuelling, and at the end of its life, the whole LFR unit would be removed and replaced with a new one in the ship, and the spent unit taken away for decommissioning and reprocessing.
Stefano Buono, newcleo Chairman and CEO, said: “I am delighted that we are launching a project for civil nuclear naval propulsion with this important feasibility study. Fincantieri and RINA are two global leaders in the shipping sector, and combining their expertise with our technology innovation can bring a real solution to the issue of carbon emissions in maritime transport. From our conception, newcleo’s ambition is to contribute to accelerating decarbonisation and providing clean, sustainable and affordable energy to meet the needs of communities and businesses. I look forward to the results of the feasibility study and the next steps of the project.”
Pierroberto Folgiero, CEO and GM Fincantieri, said: “Today Fincantieri reaffirms its vocation to be a pioneer and catalyst for progress in the maritime sector with cutting-edge, efficient and sustainable technologies. Indeed, the agreement allows us to explore the possibility of adding a new and visionary solution among those at our disposal to achieve the ambitious decarbonisation goals the industry has set for itself. Nuclear power holds enormous potential and, as such, it needs the best expertise to be expressed, and we are proud to join with partners like newcleo and Rina to help get this done.” Ugo Salerno, RINA Chairman and CEO said: “The improvement of fuel efficiency and vessel design is already giving good results in reducing shipping footprint. But, in order to reach the targets fixed for this industry, we need alternative fuels with low carbon content from well to waste. Nuclear will be one of the answers to these objectives. In addition, small modular reactors will be the most efficient solution to apply nuclear to shipping. We are proud to cooperate with newcleo and Fincantieri in order to make feasible, as soon as possible, the implementation of SMRs on ve