Ulstein has created a new zero-emission concept vessel, called Ulstein Thor, which will feature a Thorium Molten Salt Reactor (MSR) to generate clean electricity that can be used to power cruise ships.
To demonstrate the practicality of using Thor, Ulstein has also developed Ulstein Sif, a 100-metre-long concept expedition cruise ship with capacity for 160 passengers that produces zero emissions. This Ice Class 1C vessel will run on next-generation batteries, using Thor to recharge while at sea.
“We have the goals, ambition and environmental imperative to switch to zero-emission operations, but, until now, we haven’t had the solution,” said Cathrine Kristiseter Marti, CEO of Ulstein. “We believe Thor might be the answer we’ve been looking for. Thor is essentially a floating, multi-purpose ‘power station’ that will enable a new battery revolution.”
MSRs are safe, efficient and operationally proven solutions that work by dissolving Thorium in liquid salt. The chain reaction heats the salt, producing steam to drive a turbine and create electricity. MSRs have the potential to deliver clean maritime power but are yet to be incorporated into a ship design.
“MSRs have enormous potential for enabling clean shipping,” said Jan Emblemsvåg, a professor at Norwegian University of Science and Technology, who researches in the field of Thorium and nuclear power generation. “There is so much uncertainty over future fuels, but here we have an abundant energy source that, with the right approach, can be safe, much more efficient, cheaper, with a smaller environmental footprint than any existing alternative.
“From my perspective I see this as the most viable, and potentially the only credible, solution for a zero-emission fleet that can operate under commercial terms and cost levels. The Thor concept is exactly the kind of innovation we need for sustainable success at sea.”
Thor’s charging capacity has been scaled to satisfy the power needs of four expedition cruise ships simultaneously. Thor itself would never need to refuel. As such, Thor is intended to provide a blueprint for entirely self-sufficient vessels of the future.
“Expedition cruise ships operate in increasingly remote, and environmentally fragile, areas,” said Kristiseter Marti. “At the same time the industry faces growing pressure from diverse stakeholders to preserve nature as it is and ban the environmental impact of cruising. Thor enables replenishment of energy and supplies on-site, while also boasting the technology to facilitate rescue operations, as well as conducting research tasks. It is, in effect, a crucial piece of infrastructure to support sustainable and safer operations. Thor literally has the power to change our entire industry.”
The expedition vessel, which uses Ulstein’s X-Bow design, features helicopter pads, firefighting equipment, rescue booms, workboats, autonomous surface vehicles and airborne drones, cranes, laboratories, and a lecture lounge.
Sif can accommodate up to 80 passengers and 80 crew, and offers silent, zero-emission expedition cruises to remote areas.
“Here we have two concepts in one to showcase a cleaner, safer and more sustainable way ahead for cruise ship owners and operators, not to mention maritime in general,” said Øyvind Kamsvåg, chief designer at Ulstein. “Thor and Sif demonstrate what is possible when we approach challenges from a new direction.”