When I have a bit more time, I'm looking to start working on a design for a modern, practical nuclear-powered merchant vessel that can be produced in numbers. I'm starting with a general vision rooted in real-life proposals in the hopes of getting some feedback from the community before I start the design itself.
The basic outline is along the lines of this (emphasis mine):
In November 2010 British Maritime Technology and Lloyd's Register embarked upon a two-year study with US-based Hyperion Power Generation (now Gen4 Energy), and the Greek ship operator Enterprises Shipping and Trading SA to investigate the practical maritime applications for small modular reactors. The research intended to produce a concept tanker-ship design, based on a 70 MWt reactor such as Hyperion's. In response to its members' interest in nuclear propulsion, Lloyd's Register has also re-written its 'rules' for nuclear ships, which concern the integration of a reactor certified by a land-based regulator with the rest of the ship. The overall rationale of the rule-making process assumes that in contrast to the current marine industry practice where the designer/builder typically demonstrates compliance with regulatory requirements, in the future the nuclear regulators will wish to ensure that it is the operator of the nuclear plant that demonstrates safety in operation, in addition to the safety through design and construction.
Nuclear ships are currently the responsibility of their own countries, but none are involved in international trade. As a result of this work in 2014 two papers on commercial nuclear marine propulsion were published by Lloyd's Register and the other members of this consortium. These publications review past and recent work in the area of marine nuclear propulsion and describe a preliminary concept design study for a 155,000 dwt Suezmax tanker that is based on a conventional hull form with alternative arrangements for accommodating a 70 MWt nuclear propulsion plant delivering up to 23.5 MW shaft power at maximum continuous rating (average: 9.75 MW). The Gen4Energy power module is considered. This is a small fast-neutron reactor using lead-bismuth eutectic cooling and able to operate for ten full-power years before refueling, and in service last for a 25-year operational life of the vessel. They conclude that the concept is feasible, but further maturity of nuclear technology and the development and harmonisation of the regulatory framework would be necessary before the concept would be viable.
The main difference is that I plan to draw an operational container/bulker ship rather than a prototype based on an oil tanker, working from the assumption that all the regulatory challenges have been sorted out. Beyond that, the overall target is as follows:
- Large, practical, commercially feasible nuclear-powered merchant vessel to improve and decarbonize shipping
- Ideally utilizing a Gen4-type LFR with uranium nitride fuel to support cogeneration and long operational times without refueling, combined with an IFEP system to support freedom of placement of the reactor independent of the propulsion system
- Generally cleaner-looking and "prettier" than other merchant vessels, but not so much so that it compromises its utility. So roughly inspired by the layout of this thing (albeit with more space devoted to cargo capacity and less to whatever's in that huge superstructure). But definitely not another NS Savannah, which was explicitly designed to be more political than practical.
- If possible, having a modular common hull base design that can be adapted for container, bulker, RORO, etc. variants in various sizes
- The latest safety features for protecting against corrosion and common sinking risks for merchant vessels, perhaps even ICCP if there's enough excess power
Any comments on the above points, or further suggestions for the design of the vessel, would be immensely appreciated. I'm trying to avoid getting "married" to a specific design before hearing from the community.