ABS to study nuclear for commercial maritime applications

August 19, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News
The NS Savannah—the first merchant ship powered by a nuclear reactor.

The American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) has announced the launch of a research project that will look into barriers to the adoption of advanced nuclear propulsion for commercial vessels.

The $794,000 project, awarded to ABS last year by the Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy, is now being formally contracted through the DOE’s U.S. Industry Opportunities for Advanced Nuclear Technology Development funding opportunity, according to ABS’s August 17 announcement. Support is to be provided by Idaho National Laboratory’s National Reactor Innovation Center (NRIC).

Specifics: In the DOE’s project abstract, the following objectives are listed:

■ Building demonstration project pathways and business cases.

■ Developing models of various advanced reactor technologies integrated with maritime applications to help the maritime industry understand the unique value proposition and realism of nuclear solutions for pressing issues in the maritime industry.

■ Assessing the readiness of the DOE for supporting demonstration projects that integrate advanced reactor technology demonstrations with land-based marine systems in a DOE test environment and outlining opportunities and options for preparing the DOE complex and/or other government facilities to support such demonstrations.

■ Publishing guidance for addressing key technical, regulatory, and policy issues for maritime demonstration projects.

Key deliverables for the project include:

■ A roadmap for maritime application demonstration projects that will serve as a guide for the DOE, industry, academic partners, regulators, and other stakeholders.

■ Electronic models for demonstrating advanced reactor technologies integrated with maritime applications.

■ ABS Advisory on Advanced Reactor Technology for Maritime Applications for the nuclear and maritime industries, regulators, and other stakeholders.

■ A readiness report for DOE support of maritime-related demonstration projects of advanced nuclear technology.

■ ABS Guidance Notes for Maritime Demonstration Projects Using Advanced Nuclear Reactor Technology for the nuclear and maritime industries, regulators, and other stakeholders.

What they’re saying: “Modern nuclear technologies are increasingly suggested as a potential solution to shipping’s decarbonization challenge,” said Patrick Ryan, senior vice president of global engineering and technology for ABS. “The technology certainly has potential, both in terms of its contribution to emissions reduction and for U.S. shipyards and their supply chains to leverage national investment in terrestrial nuclear energy development. Nevertheless, many questions need to be answered, and it is critical the industry is able to evaluate these technologies with a laser focus on safety. ABS is up to the challenge to support the DOE in these efforts.”

NRIC director Ashley Finan added, “There’s a tremendous opportunity to reduce emissions in shipping, as well as growing interest from both the maritime and advanced nuclear sectors, and we’re pleased to be a part of this important work.”

Suggested reading: ABS’s history with maritime nuclear energy dates back to 1959 with the NS Savannah—the first merchant ship powered by a nuclear reactor and approved under ABS Rules.

For more on the Savannah and similar ships, check out “The history and future of civilian nuclear power afloat,” by ANS past president (2001–2002) Gail H. Marcus and Steven M. Mirsky.


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