Serious players in the inudstry such as ABS are saying nuclear power's potential for powering shipping cannot be ignored. This potential has been picked up the mainstream press and in Precious Shipping’s latest quarterly newsletter the company’s MD Hashim particularly took issue with an article from Bloomberg last month that painted a vision of large nuclear-powered vessels plying between major cargo hub ports.
Hashim described the idea as “at best wishful thinking”. While nuclear power would have zero emissions and could decarbonise shipping faster than other alternative options but deploying it safely would be a huge “if” he said.
Even if nuclear power was deployed safely on merchant ships persuading the general public it was the case would be another matter and Hashim noted the opposition to nuclear power generation in Germany and the reaction to Japan releasing radioactive water from Fukushima. “Imagine trying to adopt it on the seas where everyone’s access to ‘marine food’ will be at stake,” he said.
Hashim sees a host of issues including – whether countries would allow such ships in their waters, piracy and terrorism, who would be responsible for a mishap, and how would such ships be scrapped at the end of their life?
There would also be major operational and financial hurdles to overcome. “To get the world shipping fleet to zero GHG via nuclear power on ships would take much longer, be more expensive, require very detailed regulations, require a level of training and certification that ordinary seamen may be incapable of passing,” he stated.
On the financial side Molten Salt Reactors (MSR) seen as option for shipping, and currently in early development stages, would be extremely expensive costing more than the ship itself.
“The huge upfront capital cost and operational expenses, however, make it much too expensive to deploy or to maintain,” Hashim said.
He does not totally dismiss nuclear power having a role for shipping, but not at sea and rather land-based reactors that would be essential for the energy required to produce green ammonia, “which is the least bad option to get us to zero GHG”.