Class society Lloyd’s Register (LR) and UK-based operator Zodiac Maritime have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with South Korea’s HD Korea Shipbuilding & Offshore Engineering (KSOE) and KEPCO E&C for a joint development project (JDP) to research and develop nuclear-propelled designs for container ships and bulk carriers.
According to the press release KSOE (the holding company for Hyundai’s shipyards) and KEPCO E&C will provide designs for future vessels and its reactors while LR will assess rule requirements for safe operation and regulatory compliance models. Specifically, the JDP partners will address the challenges involved in applying “existing terrestrial nuclear technology” to ships so that Zodiac can evaluate the ship specifications and voyage considerations around nuclear technology.
Stavros Hatzigrigoris, New Buildings Director, Zodiac Maritime, comments: “The shipping industry is on an exciting but challenging journey as we transition towards a zero-carbon future. There is clearly great potential for nuclear technology to play a key part in achieving this mission, but the industry is only in the early stages of putting nuclear power to the test. We are therefore thrilled to partner with HD KSOE, KEPCO and LR on this JDP and help facilitate the research and development needed to accelerate nuclear power technology in shipping.”
The majority of current terrestrial nuclear reactors are of the pressurised water type, with this technology also favoured for most current in-service nuclear icebreakers. KEPCO E&C, which has designed and built 14 nuclear power plants, developed the APR-1400 Generation III reactor, of which six are currently in operation in South Korea and the United Arab Emirates.
RINA Editorial has contacted LR for clarification on the type of technology to be explored and the duration of the project.
Despite the inevitable safety concerns the maritime industry continues to scrutinise the potential of nuclear-powered propulsion as a pathway to achieving decarbonisation. In an article published last week in LR’s Horizons journal Mark Tipping, the class society’s Global Power to X Director, said that he envisions small modular reactors (SMR) could be installed on floating platforms “in the very near future”, noting that Russia has been operating floating nuclear power plants since 2019.
Presently only Russia and China are thought to have successfully built SMRs, however there are thought to be as many as 80 SMR projects currently in development worldwide utilising a variety of different designs and technologies.