Fincantieri to collaborate in nuclear feasibility study

by | 26th July 2023 | The Naval Architect - News, Research & Education

Home News Fincantieri to collaborate in nuclear feasibility study

newcleo, a UK-headquartered nuclear technology company, has announced an agreement with shipbuilders Fincantieri and Italian classification society RINa to carry out a feasibility study into the application of small modular reactors (SMRs) in the shipping industry.

In particular, the collaboration will explore the potential of using newcleo’s innovative LFR (Lead-cooled Fast Reactor) as a small nuclear battery producing a 30MW electric output. It is claimed such a system would require limited maintenance, with refuelling required only once every 10-15 years.

Unlike conventional nuclear fuel, which is made of uranium oxide, , fast reactor technologies ‘burn’ mixed oxide (MOX) fuel generated from reprocessed nuclear waste and offers a superior conversion ratio. LFRs are among a range of emerging nuclear technologies known as Generation IV reactors. These include molten salt reactors, which are already attracting interest as a possible solution for achieving the decarbonisation of shipping.

According to newcleo its design means 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, thereby shielding the marine environment from radiation in the event of a sinking.

Fincantieri’s involvement is notable given the shipbuilding group’s focus on cruise shipbuilding, a sector often felt to be particularly averse to nuclear-powered vessels given public concerns about the safety of nuclear energy. However it is unclear at this time what form their collaboration will take.

The use of nuclear-powered propulsion in commercial shipping is governed by IMO’s SOLAS Chapter 8’s Resolution A.491.XII: ‘Code of Safety for Nuclear Merchant Ships’ (Nuclear Code) which was adopted in 1981.

Last year, the UK became the most recent of IMO’s Category A Council Members – those Member States with the largest interest in providing international shipping services –  in adopting the Nuclear Code into national law.

But while it’s generally recognised the Nuclear Code needs modernising no such scoping exercise has been started at this time.

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