Fincantieri, RINA and Newcleo to study nuclear propulsion

Companies will explore use of closed mini reactor design for use on large vessels

Fincantieri, RINA and Newcleo to study nuclear propulsion
Newcleo’s closed mini reactor could potentially be installed onboard ships as a small nuclear battery

By Alex Smith |

Fincantieri, RINA and nuclear technology company Newcleo have signed an agreement to collaborate on a feasibility study for nuclear applications to the shipping industry.

The companies will explore possible uses of nuclear solutions onboard large vessels, including Newcleo’s lead-cooled small modular reactor technology.

“Today Fincantieri reaffirms its vocation to be a pioneer and catalyst for progress in the maritime sector with cutting-edge, efficient and sustainable technologies,” said Pierroberto Folgiero, CEO and general manager of Fincantieri. “Indeed, the agreement allows us to explore the possibility of adding a new and visionary solution among those at our disposal to achieve the ambitious decarbonisation goals the industry has set for itself. Nuclear power holds enormous potential and, as such, it needs the best expertise to be expressed, and we are proud to join with partners like newcleo and Rina to help get this done”.

Newcleo's solution would involve placing a closed mini reactor on vessels as a small nuclear battery, producing a 30-megawatt electric output. The reactor would require refuelling only once every 10-15 years and could be replaced at the end of its life, with the spent unit being taken away for decommissioning and reprocessing. In the event of an accident, the liquid lead inside the reactor would solidify as it cools down in contact with cold water, enclosing the reactor core in a solid casing and containing all radiation.

As nuclear reactors do not produce greenhouse gas emissions during operation, the companies see their use as a possible method for the decarbonisation of shipping. The shipping industry currently produces around 3 per cent of total carbon dioxide emissions, and the International Maritime Organization has agreed new targets to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by or close to 2050.

"I am delighted that we are launching a project for civil nuclear naval propulsion with this important feasibility study,” said Stefano Buono, chairman and CEO of Newcleo. “Fincantieri and RINA are two global leaders in the shipping sector, and combining their expertise with our technology innovation can bring a real solution to the issue of carbon emissions in maritime transport. From our conception, Newcleo's ambition is to contribute to accelerating decarbonisation and providing clean, sustainable and affordable energy to meet the needs of communities and businesses.”

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