Feasibility of commercial maritime nuclear propulsion
Marais, Johannes Francois
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The goal of this study is to make the unique benefits of modern nuclear technology available to a wider sphere. The basic hypothesis is that the time is ripe to re-investigate nuclear propulsion for commercial shipping. As the pressure on fossil fueL is mounting, both in terms of supply as well as pollution prevention and carbon emission control, it is imperative that nuclear power be made available for large-scale propulsion. Making a nuclear engine small enough to power a car is, however, still an engineering challenge. Large ships do, however, pose a platform that is sufficiently large to contain a nuclear reactor. The ultimate goal will be to design a nuclear power plant that is as safe as a conventional diesel engine, will fit into the same space and mass constraints, and is cost-competitive over the life of the ship. During this study, the shipping industry was reviewed to select the Very Large Crude Carrier class of oil tankers as a favourable candidate for nuclear propulsion. A set of design-driving requirements was formulated for the propulsion of this type of ship. A stepwise design process was followed to realize a reactor and propulsion system, using proven technology and components as far as possible. The selected configuration is a prismatic fuel high-temperature gas-cooled reactor driving a standard steam turbine in a Rankine cycle configuration. This configuration is compared with a diesel engine alternative to verify its life-cycle cost competitiveness. It was found that even under conservative assumptions, using current fuel oil price and cost of capital, the nuclear propulsion system is a feasible alternative to a diesel engine over the life of the ship.
- Engineering