Norway’s Ulstein Group has showcased its unique vision for the future of zero-emissions shipping with a design that would become the first ship to use a thorium molten salt reactor as a power source and act as a supply ship for ships. expedition cruise ships. The MSR concept is attracting interest for multiple potential applications on land and sea as it is considered a safe technology that reduces the dangers of traditional nuclear reactors offering the potential for large amounts of clean and safe electrical power.
The concept ship, Ulstein Thor, is a 488-foot vessel that would be powered by the MSR reactor and server as a “replenishment, search and rescue” (3R) vessel to support the operation of expedition cruise ships designed by Ulstein.
Ulstein says the ship concept is capable of realizing the vision of zero-emission cruise operations. They believe Thor “could be the missing piece of the zero-emissions puzzle for a wide range of marine and ocean industry applications”. Using the MSR Reactor, Thor would never need to refuel. As such, Ulstein says the design is intended to provide a blueprint for fully autonomous ships of the future.
Thor would be the supply ship for the expedition cruise ship Sif (Ulstein)
“We have the goals, the ambition and the environmental imperative to move to zero emissions operations, but so far we haven’t had the solution,” said Ulstein CEO Cathrine Kristiseter Marti. , unveiling the design concept at this week’s Seatrade Cruise conference. “We think Thor might be the answer we were looking for. Thor is essentially a floating, all-purpose ‘powerhouse’ that will enable a new battery revolution.”
The MSR concept works by dissolving thorium, an abundant, low-radioactivity natural metal, in liquid salt. The ensuing chain reaction heats the salt, producing steam to drive a turbine and create electricity. In the event of a reactor failure, the concept is that the thorium would become locked in the cooled salt preventing the spread of radiation.
Several concepts were presented to take advantage of the capabilities of the MSR in the maritime world. South Korean shipbuilder Samsung Heavy Industries said it would undertake a joint research and development project with the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute for modern nuclear-powered ships. Recently, Samsung and Seaborg also detailed a concept to create floating power barges using MSR to create electricity.
Ulstein developed Thor’s carrying capacity suitable for simultaneously satisfying the power requirements of four expedition cruise ships. They said the design would allow replenishment of energy and supplies on site, while benefiting from technology to facilitate rescue operations, as well as conduct search tasks.
To demonstrate its feasibility, Ulstein also developed the Ulstein Sif concept, a 328-foot zero-emission expedition cruise ship. The Ice 1C class ship would run on next-generation batteries, using Thor to recharge at sea. Both Thor and Sif designs feature Ulstein’s X-Bow design, created for greater operability, comfort, operational functionality and energy efficiency. Thor also includes helipads, firefighting equipment, rescue ramps, workboats, autonomous surface vehicles and airborne drones, cranes, as well as laboratories and a conference room. The Sif expedition cruise ship could accommodate up to 80 passengers and 80 crew, providing quiet, zero-emission expedition cruises to remote areas, including Arctic and Antarctic waters.
Close-up of Thor with his Autonomous Charging Vehicle (Ulstein)
Recharging Sif’s battery using an autonomous charging vehicle from Thor (Ulstein)