China COSCO Suspended nuclear powered shipping study

China COSCO Holdings Co Ltd, the country’s biggest shipping conglomerate by market value, said it has suspended its research into nuclear power as an alternative energy to replace fuel oil in vessels after Japan’s nuclear incident.

The study on nuclear, wind and solar power, undertaken to find ways to cut carbon emissions, has been under way for almost three years and had made significant progress, said Wei Jiafu, president of China Ocean Shipping (Group) Co (COSCO), the parent of China COSCO.

The amount of container ships will be overbuilt for a few years. The shipping line halted the research into nuclear power because of safety concerns after the nuclear leak in Japan, though the company will continue with the studies on wind and solar power. China COSCO has reduced vessel speeds to cut emissions of pollutants and to save costs.

Global dry-bulk shipping capacity is expected to grow by almost 13 percent, outpacing the global market demand increase of 6 percent, said Xu Zunwu, managing director of COSCO Bulk Carrier Co.

China COSCO had 450 dry-bulk ships by the end of 2010, and an additional 18 vessels on order will be delivered by 2014, at a total cost of 4.6 billion yuan ($701 million).

“We’ll curb capacity in the future and avoid adding more capacity through building heavy-cargo vessels,” Wei said.

Nuclear powered container ships would make economic sense. Although they may not be economic if you are slowing ships down and are overbuilt. Nuclear powered ships would be faster than regular ships.

Hyperion Power Generations small reactors are still under development. If those small modular reactors are produced, they would be ideally suited for conversion of container ships to nuclear power. COSCO could come back to nuclear powered shipping around 2020.