Nuclear Power for Commercial Shipping

There were four nuclear powered cargo ships. The NS Savannah was one of them.

NOTE: A follow up article has a video about air pollution from commercial shipping and has some other statistics on the scope of the effort needed and conventional alternatives for lessening but not eliminating the pollution.

Commercial shipping releases half as much particulates as all of the worlds cars.

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.

A nuclear powered container ship was analyzed by Femenia, C.R. Cushing & Co, Inc. in 2008.

Capacity 15,000 TEU (a big container ship)
Length 405 m
Beam 60 m
Draft 15.5 m
Speed 32 knots
Power 150 Mw (200,000 SHP)
Propellers 2

Economic Issues
Capital Costs (Source: Femenia, C.R. Cushing & Co, Inc)
150,000 kW (200,000 HP)
1. Assumes Nuclear @ $2500 / kW
2. Assumes Diesel @ $800 / kW
3. Assumes Plant Life 40 Years
4. Assumes Interest Rate 10%

Russians to Build a Barge Mounted Nuclear Power Plant
• Named “Akademik Lomonsov”
• Two 60-Mw KLT-405 Reactors
• $200 Million Cost
• Construction Started 2007
• Construction to be Completed 2010

Nuclear Powered Ships

There have been and still are hundreds of nuclear powered military ships. The Russians have about ten nuclear powered ice breakers

The US navy is looking at making more nuclear powered ships.

The Navy is looking to install radar requiring 30 or 31 megawatts of power onto its new Cruiser.

A nuclear-powered CG(X) could cost roughly 32% to 37% more than a conventionally powered CG(X). The Navy estimates that building the CG(X) or other future Navy surface ships with nuclear power could reduce the production cost of nuclear-propulsion components for submarines and aircraft carriers by 5% to 9%, depending on the number of nuclear-powered surface ships that are built. Building one nuclear-powered cruiser every two years, the Navy has testified, might reduce nuclear-propulsion component costs by about 7%.

At a crude oil cost of $74.15 per barrel (which was a market price at certain points in 2006), the life-cycle cost premium of nuclear power is:
— 17% to 37% for a small surface combatant;
— 0% to 10% for a medium sized surface combatant; and
— 7% to 8% for an amphibious ship.

Newly calculated life-cycle cost break-even cost-ranges, which supercede the break-even cost figures from the 2005 NR quick look analysis, are as follows:
— $210 per barrel to $670 per barrel for a small surface combatant;
— $70 per barrel to $225 per barrel for a medium-size surface combatant; and
— $210 per barrel to $290 per barrel for an amphibious ship. In each case, the lower dollar figure is for a high ship operating tempo, and the higher dollar figure is
for a low ship operating tempo.

Cargo ships are more economic for nuclear power because they are running most of the time deliverying cargo.

Gasoline and Bunker Oil Prices

Energy Information Administration tracks the price of retail gasoline in Europe. In 2008, the price reached US$10/gallon in several european countries.

Bunker oil is the relavant price to track for shipping fuel. Recent prices are $375/ton of bunker oil. This price would still make a nuclear powered container ship economic, but not as economic as last year when the price of bunker fuel was $500/ton.

Future Pundit was considering the recent book by a Forbes writer about a world with gas at $20/gallon.

As Future Pundit rightly notes, rail can be electrified.

There is a project to retrofit existing rail with electricity. This would be a far cheaper method of converting to electrified rail.