Article Archive: Current 1999 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
 Latest
 News
 
 Most
 Read
 
 Most
 Commented
 Hot
 Topics
Sea Transportation: Merchant Marine Leans Nuclear
   Next Article → WEAPONS: Argentine Missile Development
January 1, 2010: Nuclear power is popular again, mainly because of the rising cost of oil and natural gas, and decades of problem free operation for hundreds of nuclear power plants (at least those not designed in the defunct Soviet Union.) Now there are serious proposals to install nuclear power plants in merchant ships. This was tried once before, in the 1950s. The NS (nuclear ship) Savannah cost $350 million (adjusted for inflation), with 60 percent of the cost being the nuclear power plant. Oil cost a lot less back then, and nuclear power plants a lot more. Thus the Savannah was only in service for ten years, being retired, and turned into a museum ship, in 1972.

Since then, oil has become a lot more expensive, and nuclear power plants a lot cheaper. There are a new generation of nuclear power plants that are smaller, cheaper and more reliable than anything available in the 1960s. So ship builders are looking at nuclear power again. The math is pretty straightforward. Nuclear fuel costs half a dollar per million BTU, while coal costs $3, and oil $12 (and rising). Deliver a simple and reliable nuclear power plant, and ship builders will install it.

Not only is nuclear cheaper, but itÂ’s a lot cleanerr. Ships burn very dirty fuel, and the world's merchant fleet puts out as much pollution each year as 150 billion automobiles. That causes 60,000 early deaths a year from lung cancer and heart disease.

But the new generation of small, "appliance (as in ease of use) grade" nuclear power plants will get a hostile reception from a lot of people, and that might keep the steam ships going off oil for some time to come. Meanwhile, many countries, or port cities, have laws banning nuclear powered ships completely. While nuclear powered merchant ships are a growing possibility, they are not a sure thing either.

Next Article → WEAPONS: Argentine Missile Development
  

Show Only Poster Name and Title     Newest to Oldest
Pages: 1 2
Photon       1/1/2010 6:03:31 PM
Both nuclear power industries and shipping industries interested in nuclear power will have to spend quite a bit of money on advertisement and fund studies debunking anti-nuclear groups before they can invest a lot more on nuclear reactors.  Not to mention that both of them will need an extended period of time with very high oil price to make their cases more compelling.
 
Quote    Reply

giblets       1/2/2010 5:49:25 AM
Two comments, firstly, will they let such a ship anywhere near Somalia?
Second, this could be a great fillup for the navies of the world, with nuclear plants designed for ships becoming much cheaper (partly due to the numbers being built).
 
Quote    Reply

xylene       1/2/2010 10:48:10 AM
Also we are seeing a hodgepodge patchwork of confusing and conflicting fuel regulations and requirements in various parts of the world. The EU requires has strict sulfur limits on fuel. Same with California, but they require low sulphur gasoil to be used in California waters even if the main engines are not designed to burn it. Long story short it is getting harder to cross trade ships across the world and requires tremendous amount of fuel planning. Fairly workable in liner trades but near impossible in spot and tramp trades. Nuclear could work , it would need just a few major hub ports to give the green light. The cost analysis would have to be reworked since a ship's trading life is about 15 to 20 years. Plus disposal and security will be a key issue, no one would want spend reactors on ships at breaker yards in Pakistan.
 
Quote    Reply

peacebystrength    thorium is the way to go   1/3/2010 12:27:11 AM
Replacing uranium with thorium would allow for smaller, cheaper nuclear plants with less nuclear waste which is also less long-lived. Here's a good article that goes further in depth, India and China are betting on it heavily.
 
 
Quote    Reply

WarNerd       1/3/2010 6:58:58 AM
Given the various legal and anti-proliferation issues, a nuclear powered merchant marine is a non starter.
 
Auxiliary wind power has some serious potential that should be explored.
 
Quote    Reply

WarNerd       1/3/2010 7:23:01 AM

Replacing uranium with thorium would allow for smaller, cheaper nuclear plants with less nuclear waste which is also less long-lived. Here's a good article that goes further in depth, India and China are betting on it heavily.

1.  Thorium reactor design is very different from uranium reactors.  You will need 20-30 reactor years of operational experience and design debugging before you can start cranking out cookie cutter copies.
 
2.  The thorium cycle reactor in the linked article uses a molten salt loop with the fuel dissolved/suspended in the molten salt.  A conventional uranium reactor has 3 physical barriers between the radioactive material and the secondary loop where it can escape to atmosphere.  The proposed thorium cycle reactor design only has 1.
 
3.  The thorium cycle requires continuous reprocessing of the fuel/cooling stream to operate.  This means the plant includes all the components of the fuel cycle.  The thorium cycle was not passed over because Rickover wanted plutonium for weapons from civilian reactors (civilian reactors produced plutonium contains to many heavy isotopes to be used in weapons, it a function of the refueling cycle used).  It was passed over because it is a potential counter-proliferation nightmare.
 
 
Quote    Reply

elgatoso       1/3/2010 12:42:27 PM
It was passed over because it is a potential counter-proliferation nightmare
You are wrong .Exactly the opposite
 
Quote    Reply

WarNerd       1/4/2010 6:00:43 AM

It was passed over because it is a potential counter-proliferation nightmare

You are wrong .Exactly the opposite


Then please explain how a nuclear plant with built in continuous fuel reprocessing does not pose a proliferation risk.
 
Oh, and you can build a bomb using U233 from thorium, you just have to do it in a hot cell.  The fuel reprocess system will include several so you have a design ready at hand to copy.
 
You can also dope the fuel stream with U238 to breed Pu239 for weapons.
 
Quote    Reply

elgatoso       1/4/2010 6:56:29 PM

You can build a bomb,and the US first tested U-233 as part of a bomb core in Operation Teapot in 1955. The bare critical mass of U-233 is 60% higher compared to plutonium-239. The spontaneous fission rate is twenty times higher (6×10E&S722;9 versus 3×10E&S722;10).A nuclear explosive device based on uranium-233 is therefore more of a technical challenge than with plutonium.The main difference is the co-presence of uranium-232 that makes uranium-233 very dangerous to work on, and quite easy to detect.

This makes manual handling in a glove box with only light shielding (as commonly done with plutonium) too hazardous, (except possibly in a short period immediately following chemical separation of the uranium from thorium-228, radium-224, radon-220, and polonium) and instead requiring remote manipulation for fuel fabrication.
You need way to much technology to make a nuclear bomb from U-233.If you have the tech to make U233 bombs you have the tech to make U235 and plutonium bombs
 
Quote    Reply

cwDeici       1/5/2010 2:24:29 AM

Two comments, firstly, will they let such a ship anywhere near Somalia?

Second, this could be a great fillup for the navies of the world, with nuclear plants designed for ships becoming much cheaper (partly due to the numbers being built).



The little bitches wouldn't know what to do with it or even take it out without dying in the process, and even if they did SpecOps would be there.
 
Quote    Reply
1 2