Commercial Shipping Uses 9% of world oil and is Major Air Pollution Source

Air pollution from commercial shipping kills 60,000 people per year.

Converting all commercial ships to run on nuclear power would be economic even without considering carbon taxes or fees.

In 2000, there were 6800 container ships in the world. At the cold war peak the Soviets had or had almost built about 400 nuclear powered ships and the USA had over 200.

Factory mass produced small nuclear reactors like the one being developed by Hyperion Power Generation or variants of the pebble bed reactor being made in China or new liquid flouride thorium reactor proposals would all work for total nuclearizing commercial shipping. There would also be the benefit that the ships would need to rarely stop for refueling and in general could operate at faster speed.

The slid show below presents more on commercial shipping and pollution and discusses more conventional ways to make it a little cleaner.

Britain and other European governments have been accused of underestimating the health risks from shipping pollution following research which shows that one giant container ship can emit almost the same amount of cancer and asthma-causing chemicals as 50m cars.

Confidential data from maritime industry insiders based on engine size and the quality of fuel typically used by ships and cars shows that just 15 of the world’s biggest ships may now emit as much pollution as all the world’s 760m cars. Low-grade ship bunker fuel (or fuel oil) has up to 2,000 times the sulphur content of diesel fuel used in US and European automobiles.

Pressure is mounting on the UN’s International Maritime Organisation and the EU to tighten laws governing ship emissions following the decision by the US government last week to impose a strict 230-mile buffer zone along the entire US coast, a move that is expected to be followed by Canada.

The setting up of a low emission shipping zone follows US academic research which showed that pollution from the world’s 90,000 cargo ships leads to 60,000 deaths a year in the US alone and costs up to $330bn per year in health costs from lung and heart diseases. The US Environmental Protection Agency estimates the buffer zone, which could be in place by next year, will save more than 8,000 lives a year with new air quality standards cutting sulphur in fuel by 98%, particulate matter by 85% and nitrogen oxide emissions by 80%