Core Power wins funding for floating nuclear research project

The UK-based Core Power has secured research funds from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Nuclear Energy University Program (NEUP) to study the development of offshore floating nuclear power generation in the US.

Illustration; Courtesy of Core Power

Core Power specializes in scalable atomic power technology for ocean transport and heavy industry. The company is working on the development of a modular molten salt reactor (MSR) to propel ships and provide energy for manufacturing blue and green fuels.

The company has also shown how ‘green fuel‘ for shipping can be produced at low cost using a floating nuclear power plant design combined with an ‘ammonia refinery‘ at either end of green corridors being proposed in the Clydebank declaration.

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As disclosed, the three-year study will be carried out in cooperation with the MIT Energy Initiative and the Idaho National Laboratory.

Core Power said that the NEUP funding will allow detailed collaborative research into the economic and environmental benefits of floating advanced nuclear power generation and take a granular look at all aspects of building, operating, maintaining, and decommissioning such facilities.

It is an important step forward for Core Power to be working with the world-renowned MIT Energy Initiative. We believe this will help us take the next step in bringing ground-breaking new nuclear technology to the maritime market,” said Mikal Bøe, Chairman and CEO of UK-based Core Power.

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) earlier announced its intention to fund and develop regional clean hydrogen hubs (H2Hubs) across America, one of which must be powered by nuclear. Funding would come from the $1.2-trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

The hydrogen hub program is an $8-billion program to bring together stakeholders to help drive down the cost of advanced hydrogen production, transport, storage, and utilization across multiple sectors in the economy. In 2021, the DOE also launched the Hydrogen Shot to cut the cost of clean hydrogen to $1 per 1 kilogram of clean hydrogen in 1 decade, nicknamed ‘1-1-1’.

This NEUP project will among other things look at how a nuclear-powered H2Hub off the coast of the US could set the scene and demonstrate how we make hydrogen production, safe, cheap and reliable by placing the production unit offshore,” Bøe said.

As the US moves to decarbonize diverse industries, including shipping, we will have to explore and understand novel applications of technologies like nuclear and hydrogen production. This NEUP project will help us do that,” said John Parsons, the Principal Investigator on the project and Associate Director for Research at MIT’s Center for Energy and Environmental Policy.

NEUP seeks to align the nuclear energy research being conducted at U.S. colleges and universities with DOE’s mission and goals. The research will run in parallel to proof-of-concept prototype reactors currently being developed in the US at the Idaho National Laboratory.

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Nuclear energy is sparking a growing interest in the shipping industry as the potential source for marine propulsion, especially for larger ships, as new research and projects point to its advantages.

Nuclear power as one of the potential pathways toward decarbonizing the sector has been largely discarded by the industry, mostly due to lack of public acceptance and safety concerns.

Findings from recent research from C-Job point out multiple benefits of nuclear power as a marine propulsion source including the potential to consider higher design speeds, making the ship more profitable. 

Switching to nuclear-powered ships would remove business uncertainty caused by fuel cost volatility, as they wouldn’t need to be refueled.

That being said, the key to unlocking its full potential is further research into the design, operation, and life cycle.

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