Energy Mobility

213: Molten Salt Reactor Ship


Over the coming decades, as many as 60,000 ships must transition from combustion of fossil fuels to zero-emission propulsion and reduce emissions by 50% of the 2008 total, before 2050. T


Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, Chairman of TerraPower nuclear tech company in Washington has linked up with Mikal Bøe’s London-based Core Power, French nuclear materials handling specialist Orano and American utilities firm Southern Company to develop Molten Salt Reactor (MSR) atomic technology in the USA with the potential for use in commercial shipping.

The team including Rob Corbin of TerraPower and Giulio Gennaro of Core Power has submitted its application to the US Department of Energy to take part in cost-share risk reduction awards under the Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program, in order to build a prototype MSR as a proof-of-concept for a medium-scale commercial-grade reactor.

Their solution will be using a fluid fuel in the form of very hot fluoride or chloride salt typically composed of beryllium-fluoride (BeF2) and lithium-fluoride (LiF), infused with high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU), a ‘hot’ fissile material instead of solid fuel rods which are used in conventional pressurized water reactors (PWRs).

They 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.

For this reason, they can be mass-manufactured to bring the cost of energy in line with existing fuels.
MSRs are walk-away safe. The fuel salts for MSRs work at normal atmospheric pressure, so a breach of the reactor containment vessel would simply leak out the liquid fuel which would then solidify as it cooled.

Bjørn Højgaard, the CEO of Hong Kong ship manager Anglo-Eastern ( has commented “I think that in 50 years nuclear molten-salt-reactors will be par for the course in the shipping industry, and we will look back at the current time and wonder why we dabbled in alternative pathways for greenhouse gas-free propulsion.”

Ports will also be able to use energy from ships installed with m-MSR to power equipment and machinery while the ship is at berth, through reverse cold ironing. Power generated by m-MSR will be cost competitive when compared to terrestrial energy sources available to the port.

Discover Solution 214: lithium from thermal waters

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