The US Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded the American Bureau of Shipping (ABS) a contract to research advanced nuclear propulsion on commercial vessels. With a budget of USD 800,000, ABS will seek to address challenges to adopting new reactor technology.

ABS will develop models of different advanced reactor technologies for maritime applications and develop an industry advisory on the commercial use of modern nuclear power. Support will be provided by the DOE’s National Reactor Innovation Center (NRIC), based at Idaho National Laboratory. NRIC will provide the advanced reactor framework to help propose how a maritime nuclear demonstration could take place.

In a separate, smaller award, the DOE has also contracted ABS to support research into molten salt reactors being carried out by the University of Texas.

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Laser focus on safety

‘Modern nuclear technologies are increasingly suggested as a potential solution to shipping’s decarbonisation challenge,’ says Patrick Ryan, ABS Senior Vice President, Global Engineering and Technology. ‘The technology certainly has potential both in terms of its contribution to emissions reduction and for US 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.’

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ABS has history with maritime nuclear energy sources dating back to 1959 with the NS Savannah, which was the first merchant ship powered by a nuclear reactor and approved under ABS Rules.

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