Crowley and BWXT Technologies are developing a zero-emissions ship concept that would use a nuclear microreactor on board.
The new shallow-draft hull ships would practically function as a nuclear energy supply for shore facilities, such as military bases in remote island locations, backup for utility grids after natural disasters, or other situations where traditional energy sources may become temporarily unavailable, according to the companies. Energy would be generated on board the ship, using nuclear microreactors that can generate between 5 megawatts and 50 megawatts of clean energy.
The partnership will allow the companies to begin designing, engineering, and developing the ships. They are currently conceptualized as 378-foot-long ships that use Crowley’s logistics and marine abilities along with safe, efficient nuclear power generation guided by BWTX.
“We are excited to work alongside Crowley to leverage our ongoing reactor development and demonstration programs, advancing nuclear technology into new and novel markets to deliver zero carbon emissions energy generation to strategic locations,” said Joe Miller, president of BWXT Advanced Technologies.
The modular reactors may be activated upon arrival where energy is needed, then deactivated for transport once power is discontinued. Power delivery cables on buoys will deliver the energy to shore.
Modular Nuclear Reactors as a Flexible Alternative to Large-Scale Nuclear Plants
Nuclear power is considered a viable clean energy source, but concerns surround the cost and time involved in building large-scale nuclear plants.
In 2020, BWRX released the design of a small, simplified boiling water nuclear reactor that could be used to generate clean nuclear energy with a 90% reduced plant size. The Department of Energy is supporting the development of the reactor, which removes nearly all of the systems needed to support a large-scale reactor.
Using modular reactors instead of investing in the creation of new, large-scale nuclear plants can allow nuclear power to be developed much more quickly and at much lower costs. It also allows nuclear generation to take place in a wider range of locations, even including mobile sites like ships.
“This concept supports the U.S. Department of Energy’s goal of maintaining U.S. leadership in nuclear energy technology as well as many of the U.S. Department of Defense’s strategic goals for operational energy,” said Shiju Zacharia, senior vice president and general manager of Crowley Government Solutions.