Floating Offshore Nuclear Power Barge Design Receives ABS Approval

Hyundai has joined the efforts to develop floating offshore nuclear power barges (file photo)

Published Oct 4, 2023 3:35 PM by The Maritime Executive

South Korea’s HD Korea Shipbuilding & Offshore Engineering (KSOE) and KEPCO Engineering and Construction Company have become the latest partnership to propose designs for a floating offshore nuclear power barge. Multiple efforts are underway to explore the potential of a new generation of small nuclear reactors and emerging technologies such as molten salt reactors as a cost-effective means of creating new power sources that also address the need for lower carbon emissions from power generation and other heavy industries.

The partnership, which also involved collaboration with ABS and the Liberian International Ship & Corporate Registry (LISCR), has developed a novel design for a floating offshore nuclear power barge. After review by ABS and LISCR, the design received approval in principle (AIP) from the class society.

“Floating production platforms like this barge from HD KSOE have the possibility to scale more easily than what can be done on land,” explains Patrick Ryan, ABS Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer. 

The floating small modular reactor (SMR) barge developed in this project is intended to serve as offshore power generation for remote communities and island electrification. HD KSOE provided basic designs for the marine systems. ABS and LISCR completed design reviews based on class and statutory requirements while KEPCO E&C, which has an extensive track record of having developed more than 30 nuclear power plants over the past 40 years, will continue to work on risk assessments for future applications of the barge concept.

“This barge design not only eliminates the inconvenience of selecting onshore sites by being installed at sea but also offers the advantage of an integrated design for thermal energy production,” said Dr. Kim Sung-Jun, Director of Future Technology at HD KSOE. 

HD KSOE highlights that it has invested $30 million in the fourth-generation SMR company, TerraPower. The company says that it also has plans to accelerate the development of future nuclear-powered ships by establishing an SMR research team as part of its focus on high-value ships and emerging technologies.

“We have our own marine SMR, 'BANDI', and we are making efforts to develop marine SMR technology as well as onshore SMR,” reports Dr. Moon Young-Tae, Senior Director of KEPCO E&C. “Based on our abundant experience in the nuclear power business and accumulated technology, we will actively contribute to decarbonization for the environment and future generations." 

The concept of floating nuclear reactors to more remote locations is attracting broad interest in the maritime industries Samsung Heavy Industries reported over a year ago that it had formed a partnership with Seaborg, a Danish start-up pursuing next-generation nuclear technologies, to develop a floating nuclear power plant barge using Compact Molten Salt Reactor technology developed by Seaborg. At the beginning of this year, the companies reported that they had completed conceptual designs for their project, which is also receiving support from the European Union.

Crowley recently announced that it was also forming a partnership with BWX Technologies, formerly part of Babcock & Wilcox, to work on the development of a power generation vessel concept using a microreactor. The concept is that the onboard power plant would supply energy to shore facilities, such as military bases in remote island locations, backup utility grids after disasters, and provide power in other scenarios where traditional electricity sources are damaged or not possible.