Design for nuclear-powered ship unveiled

2023-12-07 08:31:02China Daily Editor : Li Yan ECNS App Download

An illustration of the large nuclear-powered container ship, which can carry 24,000 standard containers. (Photo provided to China Daily)

China has unveiled a conceptual design for what could potentially become the world's largest nuclear-powered container ship.

The vessel, which has yet to be named, will be powered by molten salt reactors and will have the capacity to carry 24,000 standard containers. In other words, it will be able to hold more than 1 billion boxes of Apple iPhones.

The conceptual design, made by China State Shipbuilding Corp's Jiangnan Shipyard in Shanghai, was published on Tuesday, as the four-day Marintec China 2023 exhibition opened in the city.

The ship's design earned an Approval in Principle certificate from the DNV, one of the world's leading classification societies, at an unveiling ceremony.

A senior researcher at Jiangnan Shipyard, who asked to be identified only as Hu, told China Daily on Wednesday that the idea for a nuclear-powered container ship was the result of the shipyard's endeavor to seek clean energy solutions for its products.

"Shipbuilders around the world have been under huge pressure from shipping businesses, investors and environmentalists to find cleaner fuel solutions. It is only natural for us to take nuclear power into consideration," he said.

According to industry statistics, shipping operations account for about 3 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. The International Maritime Organization has repeatedly pledged to reduce the emissions caused by shipping businesses.

Hu said the ship will use fourth-generation molten salt reactor technology, which features a very high level of operational safety and an abundance of fail-safe measures.

"Its overall design is based on those of our well-developed container ships. Engineers will only need to modify its power and propulsion systems to fit the nuclear energy," he said.

In a news release published on Tuesday, Jiangnan Shipyard said that in addition to the advantages of its nuclear system, the ship will also feature high speed, easy controls and more space for containers.

According to nuclear technology experts, a molten salt reactor is a class of nuclear fission reactor in which both the primary coolant and fuel are a critical concentration of a fissile material dissolved in molten salt.

The International Atomic Energy Agency said that such reactors have been regarded as a promising advanced solution because of the various benefits associated with them. These reactors can operate at higher temperatures, which leads to increased efficiencies in power generation, according to the IAEA.

The low operating pressures inside a molten salt reactor can reduce the risk of a large break and loss of coolant as a result of an accident, thereby enhancing the safety of the reactor. Also, they generate less high-level radioactive waste, and their design does not require solid fuel, eliminating buildup and the need for disposal, the agency said.

Currently, the only nuclear-powered cargo vessel in active service in the world is Russia's Sevmorput, which was built in 1988.

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