South Korean partnership to develop SMR-powered ships

10 February 2023

Nine South Korean organisations have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to cooperate on the development and demonstration of ships and offshore systems powered with small modular reactors (SMRs). The partners will also develop marine systems and the production of hydrogen using molten salt reactors (MSRs).

Representatives from the partners mark the signing of the MoU (Image: KAERI)

The MoU was signed in Gyeongju City Hall on 9 February by representatives from Gyeongju City and North Gyeongsang Province, as well as shipping companies H-Line Shipping, Hyundai Merchant Marine (HMM), Janggeum Merchant Marine (Sinokor) and Wooyang Merchant Marine, plus the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI), Korea Register of Shipping and the Korea Ship & Offshore Plant Research Institute (KRISO).

"This agreement was prepared to establish a cooperative basis for commercialisation in the future through the development and demonstration of SMR technology for propulsion of large ships," they said in a joint statement.

Under the MoU, the nine organisations agreed to cooperate in the development and demonstration of SMRs for marine use; the development of SMR-propelled vessel/marine system interface technology and response to licenses and permits; to nurture experts in nuclear-powered ship operation and establishment of industrial infrastructure.

The partners will jointly develop a Molten Salt Reactor suitable for use in marine vessels. They noted that with MSRs, there would be no need to replace nuclear fuel during operation of the ship, and when an abnormal signal occurs inside the reactor, it is designed so that molten salt - which is liquid nuclear fuel - hardens, preventing serious accidents from the source. Its compact design also makes it easy to load large quantities of cargo. Unlike diesel engines, it is also an eco-friendly energy source that does not emit carbon.

"Nuclear power is the best energy source for responding to climate change and realizing carbon neutrality because there is no carbon emission during electricity production," said North Gyeongsang Governor Lee Cheol-woo. "We will lead the nuclear power renaissance and build a global innovative nuclear power industrial ecosystem centered on the Pan-East Sea."

Last month, South Korean shipbuilder Samsung Heavy Industries announced it had completed the conceptual design for the CMSR Power Barge - a floating nuclear power plant based on compact molten salt reactors - and obtained the basic certification of the design from the American Bureau of Shipping. The company plans to commercialise the CMSR Power Barge by 2028 once the detailed design of all of the plant's power generation facilities has been completed.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News