Cruise & Ferry Review - Spring/Summer 2024

128 VIEWPOINT NS Savannah was launched as the world’s first nuclear-powered passenger ship in 1959 Is nuclear the key to zero-emission cruising? By Gianpaolo Dalla Vedova, Lloyd’s Register Lloyd’s Register predicts nuclear-powered ships could help the cruise industry to decarbonise, but only if the sector overcomes challenges such as costs, regulations and safely managing decommissioned material More than six decades have passed since the world’s first nuclear-powered passenger ship, NS Savannah, was launched in 1959. Whilst the prospect of the widespread use of nuclear-powered passenger vessels has long been met with apprehension, nuclear could take centre stage as part of the maritime energy transition in the coming years. The energy density nuclear propulsion offers could be a potential ‘silver bullet’ for the cruise sector as it grapples with increasing greenhouse gas emission reduction targets. The energy density of nuclear could mean that vessels only need refuelling once every decade, allowing cruise ships to travel to previously difficult locations without needing to take on bunkers. Lloyd’s Register is receiving extensive interest from shipowners asking for information on nuclear. We are at an early stage, but a cruise ship using nuclear propulsion could be on the water in 15 years’ time. Shoreside simplification Over the past few years, the cruise sector has seen an increase in cold ironing, where ships using traditional marine fuels turn off their engines in port and connect to shoreside power. Whilst this has reduced emissions, only a limited number of berths worldwide have the adequate shoreside power to facilitate this. However, if they had a nuclear reactor onboard, ships would have limited need to plug in to shore power, which should be treated as a short-term measure to curb emissions. Infrastructure would need to be specialised to accommodate the infrequent refuelling requirements of the cruise ships. On the one hand, refuelling less means long-term planning will be crucial between cruise lines and suitable facilities, which will need to be developed alongside comprehensive regulatory frameworks. On the other, the opportunity provided by the increased range will enable ships to explore more remote or less accessible destinations, transforming the offering of the growing expedition cruise sector. Safety first Conversations about safety have often dominated the nuclear discussion, but the numbers speak for themselves. Nuclear power has the best safety track Photo: US Government, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons