Bill Gates, Microsoft co-founder and one of the richest men in the world has recently turned his attention to getting ships powered by, nuclear energy!
Gates is also the chairman of TerraPower, a nuclear tech company that earlier this week announced a new venture with Mikal Bøe’s CORE POWER, French nuclear materials handling specialist Orano and American utilities firm Southern Company. Together, the four companies plan to develop molten salt reactor (MSR) atomic technology in the United States.
“We’re pleased to work with such outstanding partners in developing game-changing technology to help transport and industry transition to a clean energy future,” Mikal Bøe, CEO of London-based CORE POWER said.
As per splash247.com, the four companies have submitted an application to the US Department of Energy to take part in cost-share risk reduction awards under the Advanced Reactor Demonstration Programme to build a prototype MSR, as a proof-of-concept for a medium-scale commercial-grade reactor.
How does it work?
The CORE POWER units are based on marine molten salt reactors (m-MSRs). This technology, by using thorium is capable of powering even the largest ships.
The m-MSR itself is small, with no moving parts therefore it massively reduces waste, and, as per CORE POWER, is fuelled-for-life, avoiding proliferation of spent fuel.
In the m-MSR atomic battery, the fuel is the coolant and the coolant is the fuel, so coolant cannot be lost. Thorium itself is a weakly radioactive metallic chemical element found most commonly in India and is a substance that Gates and TerraPower has been studying closely in the past years.
What does the industry say?
As it turns out, Bøe’s atomic battery invention has been much discussed in the shipping industry in recent months.
Only last week, at a webinar in Singapore, Andreas Sohmen-Pao, the chairman of BW Group, discussed the potential shift that can be brought in market by atomic energy after being deployed in the merchant fleet.
“The change in the industry is going to be massive and maybe catastrophic because you will have ships going 50% faster because the fuel is essentially free once you’ve paid the up front capex investment and the tanks will be empty because you will have cheap electricity around the world without intermittency,” Sohmen-Pao said
UN’s maritime agency IMO has directed the shipping industry to reduce emissions by half from the 2008 figure, prior to 2050. In the next few decades it is expected to see as many as 60,000 ships shifting from fossil fuels technology to zero-emission propulsion technology.
“I think that in 50 years nuclear molten-salt-reactors will be par for the course in the shipping industry, and we will look back at the current time and wonder why we dabbled in alternative pathways for greenhouse gas-free propulsion.” said Bjørn Højgaard Chief Executive Officer at Anglo-Eastern Univan Group
The MSR technology is being developed with the goal of powering production of green sustainable fuels for smaller ships and offering on-board electric power for large ships with zero emissions as standard.
What are your thoughts on this subject? Do you believe nuclear power to be the answer to ocean decarbonisation?