Decarbonizing America’s Maritime Industry with Advanced Nuclear

A new report from CORE POWER shows that the United States now has the perfect opportunity to demonstrate to the world the clear benefits of advanced nuclear technologies to decarbonize shipping in its own domestic market.

The U.S. maritime commerce industry is a $50 billion market that employs approximately 150,000 people, moving goods on the Great Lakes, along all three coasts, and on major U.S. inland waterways.

Air emissions from domestic shipping in the United States amount to more than 60 million tons of CO2 per year from the combustion of heavy fuel oil as well as liquefied natural gas (LNG) and marine gas oil (MGO).

Tony Huston, U.S. Country Manager at CORE POWER, said, “Freight shipping on U.S. coasts, Great Lakes, and inland waterways provides a strong proof of concept for decarbonizing nuclear power without the complex regulatory hurdles associated with moving reactors between nation states.

The United States has a long history of using nuclear power in its navy with an exemplary safety record. This has led to increased interest in the use of nuclear power for civilian ships, particularly from US Presidential Special Envoy for Climate John Kerry, who spoke about his own naval career during the COP26 in Glasgow last year.

Huston says, “Kerry has made it clear that the US nuclear navy has operated for nearly 70 years without incident and has the best-trained sailors in the world. We believe that the deployment of commercial nuclear vessels would provide a whole new career path for these sailors once they leave the Navy. STEM-qualified students from the US university system seeking high-paying careers in an exciting industry could also be recruited to complement the skills of highly trained former US Navy personnel.

Advanced nuclear ships would be true zero-emission ships and would be immune to carbon pricing as introduced in fossil fuels. Large ships that consume nearly 500,000 tonnes of fuel over their lifetime emit more than 1.5 million tonnes of CO2 in service. With a carbon tax of $200 per ton, these ships would see an operating expense increase of $300 million over a life cycle. Advanced nuclear-powered ships would save this cost, making them very competitive.

“The United States would be in a unique position to become an exporter of transformative advanced nuclear technology for the maritime sector to trusted partner nations like the United Kingdom, enabling the United States to create a valuable export market for the technology built by highly skilled American workers. By embracing the possibilities of advanced nuclear navigation, the United States can now reinvigorate its shipbuilding and maritime industry by placing itself at the forefront of one of the world’s most important industries,” concludes Huston.