But the Research Council of Norway has now allocated new funds for a maritime nuclear energy research project at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU).
Since the concept was launched in Miami, Ulstein has been inundated with inquiries about other possible shipping applications. And the company’s Thor developers are confident that molten salt reactor (MSR) technology can be widely applied in shipping, perhaps even proving to be the industry’s “silver bullet” in terms of sustainable fuels.
In Miami, the Thor concept was released in a cruise context, with a 149m long ship designed to generate clean electricity from a Thorium (MSR) powering expedition cruise ships. Now, however, there is potential to expand the possible applications of cruising to many other shipping sectors.
The process works by dissolving thorium, a naturally occurring metal with low radioactivity, in liquid salt. This creates a chain reaction that heats the salt and produces steam to drive a turbine that generates emissions-free electricity. Although the technology has been available for many years, it has not been actively developed in maritime transport because until recently any “nuclear” option was excluded, except for naval craft or icebreakers in Russia .
However, Jan Emblemsvåg, an NTNU professor and expert in thorium power generation, says the technology is perfectly safe and has “enormous potential” to enable clean shipping. The professor, who has a background in shipping including Rolls-Royce and shipbuilder Vard, commented on the technology when Ulstein Thor was launched earlier this year: “I see this as the most viable and potentially the only credible one. for a zero-emissions fleet that can operate on commercial terms and at cost levels,” he said.
Torill Muren is Principal Naval Architect at Ulstein Design & Solutions. “Thor essentially functions as a floating, mobile, general-purpose power plant,” she explained, “that never needs to be refueled – instantly creating the ocean infrastructure needed to facilitate a new battery revolution. In the case of Thor, it would provide the carrying capacity to satisfy the power needs of four expedition cruise ships… We see it as the missing piece of the puzzle when it comes to enabling safe and sustainable operations. , all over the world. As such, he truly has the ability to transform our industry.
Ultstein chief designer Øyvind G. Kamsvåg sees incredible potential in the technology and compares it to the adoption of electric cars in Norway, where 65% of all cars sold last year were electric, reaching 84 % in January. “No one who needs a car wants to destroy the environment, but you need to have the charging infrastructure in place to enable a meaningful shift to zero-emission transport; something that has been done very successfully in Norway,” he said.
“Thor, or a similar concept, is the solution to establishing the same charging infrastructure at sea,” he continued. “In fact, this is a unique business opportunity. Why doesn’t someone, a wealthy individual or a progressive company, buy a fleet of Thors and suddenly create a network of floating charging stations to power green shipping? What an incredible opportunity for a new sustainable source of income! The possibilities for this are almost limitless.