Core Power

KSOE bolstering efforts on nuclear propulsion for ships

South Korean shipbuilding major HD Korea Shipbuilding & Offshore Engineering (KSOE), a sub-holdings company of HD Hyundai, has entered into a cooperation deal with prominent nuclear power companies Core Power and TerraPower to develop nuclear power for ships.

Image only for illustration purposes; Image courtesy: Core Power

The move is being announced following a meeting on the joint construction of molten salt reactors recently held in Washington state, USA.

The building block of the project will be the development of the first-of-a-kind molten chloride fast reactor (MCFR) from Terra Power in the United States.

The goal is to commercialize the technology and fit it into ships by 2035. The efforts align with the broader decarbonization push in the maritime industry as the sector looks at previously ruled out solutions such as alternative fuels and nuclear power.

Nuclear power provides a high energy density, allowing ships to operate for extended periods without refueling. This can be especially advantageous for long-distance voyages or missions that require prolonged periods at sea without interruption.

Most importantly, it generates power without direct emissions of greenhouse gases or air pollutants.

The MCFR technology operates at higher temperatures than conventional reactors, thus generating electricity more efficiently and without emissions, as explained by Terra Power, founded by Microsoft founder Bill Gates. Its unique design features make it a highly efficient, low-cost, and carbon-free energy solution to help utilities and industries reach decarbonization goals.

The development of the first fast-spectrum molten salt reactor has reached a major milestone with the launching of pumped-salt operations in the Integrated Effects Test (IET) facility installed at TerraPower’s laboratory in Everett, Washington.

Project partners CORE POWER, Southern Company, and TerraPower see this as a major achievement, taking the project to bring TerraPower’s first-of-a-kind MCFR to market into an important new phase.

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HD KSOE has already invested $30 million in the fourth-generation SMR company, TerraPower, and the duo now wants to extend their collaboration to exploring new business opportunities in the field of floating nuclear power plants.

KSOE plans to send a research team to TerraPower in March.

The shipbuilder has been working on several areas in the nuclear propulsion sector. In October 2023, KSOE and KEPCO Engineering and Construction Company (KEPCO E&C) received approval in principle (AiP) from classification society ABS for a new design of a floating offshore nuclear power barge.

The floating small modular reactor (SMR) barge is intended to serve as offshore power generation for remote communities and island electrification.

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HD KSOE and KEPCO have also teamed up with Zodiac Maritime and with Lloyd’s Register (LR) in a joint development project for the research and development of nuclear-propelled ship designs.

The companies have signed a memorandum of Understanding (MoU) at Korea’s HD Hyundai Global R&D Center to study nuclear propulsion for ships including bulk carriers and containerships.

Under the JDP, HD KSOE and KEPCO E&C will provide designs for future vessels and their reactors while LR will assess rule requirements for safe operation and regulatory compliance models.

Additionally, KSOE will work on establishing a regulatory framework for the application of marine nuclear reactors, in collaboration with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and major global classification societies (ABS, LR).