Bill Gates pushes for nuclear-powered shipping

TerraPower, founded by Bill Gates, joins Core Power, Southern Company and Orano USA to develop Molten Salt Reactor atomic technology.

TerraPower, founded by Bill Gates, joins Core Power, Southern Company and Orano USA to develop Molten Salt Reactor (MSR) atomic technology in the US.  Bill Gates, Microsoft co-founder and one of the world’s richest person, believes that the private sector needed to take action in developing advanced nuclear energy to meet growing electricity needs and mitigate climate change.

According to Core Power, Marine MSR are like atomic battery packs.  They use a fluid fuel in the form of very hot fluoride or chloride salt infused with a hot fissile material, instead of solid fuel rods which are used in conventional pressurized nuclear reactors.

Marine MSR have no moving parts, operate at very high temperatures under only ambient pressure, and can be made small enough to provide micro-grid-scale electric power for energy hungry assets, like large ships.  Because of this, they can be mass-manufactured to bring the cost of energy down below that of gas, diesel and even renewables. 

“We’re pleased to work with such outstanding partners in developing game-changing technology to help transport and industry transition to a clean energy future,” says Mikal Bøe, CEO of London-based Core Power.

The team has submitted its application to the US Dept. of Energy to take part in cost-share risk reduction awards under the Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program to build a prototype MSR, as a proof-of-concept for a medium-scale commercial-grade reactor.

“The implications of the MSR for transport and industry could be transformational, as we seek to build scale-appropriate technology and broad acceptance of modern and durable liquid-fueled atomic power to shape the future of how we deal with climate change,” Bøe concludes.

Over the next few decades as many as 60,000 ships must transition from combustion of fossil fuels to zero-emission propulsion. The UN’s maritime agency IMO has mandated with unanimous approval from 197 countries that shipping must reduce emissions by 50% of the 2008 total, before 2050. This means an actual emission reduction of almost 90%, by 2050. 

MSR technology being developed by the consortium could achieve that goal, by powering production of green sustainable fuels for smaller ships and providing onboard electric power for large ships, with zero emissions as standard.

Image credit: Frederic Legrand – COMEO /

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