The US Department of Energy’s Nuclear Energy University Program (NEUP) has awarded research funds to the MIT Energy Initiative, CORE POWER, and the Idaho National Laboratory for a three-year study into the development of offshore floating nuclear power generation in the US.
The NEUP funding will allow detailed collaborative research into the economic and environmental benefits of floating advanced nuclear power generation and take a granular look at all aspects of building, operating, maintaining, and decommissioning such facilities.
DOE earlier announced its intention to fund and develop regional clean hydrogen hubs (H2Hubs) across America, one of which must be powered by nuclear. Funding would come from the $1.2-trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The hydrogen hub program is an $8-billion program to bring together stakeholders to help drive down the cost of advanced hydrogen production, transport, storage, and utilization across multiple sectors in the economy.
In 2021, the DOE also launched the Hydrogen Shot to cut the cost of clean hydrogen to $1 per 1 kilogram of clean hydrogen in 1 decade, nicknamed 1-1-1.
As the US moves to decarbonize diverse industries, including shipping, we will have to explore and understand novel applications of technologies like nuclear and hydrogen production. This NEUP project will help us do that.—John Parsons, the Principal Investigator on the project and Associate Director for Research at MIT’s Center for Energy and Environmental Policy
NEUP seeks to align the nuclear energy research being conducted at US colleges and universities with DOE’s mission and goals. The program supports projects that focus on the needs and priorities of key Office of Nuclear Energy programs, including fuel cycle, reactor concepts, and mission-supporting research. The research will run in parallel to proof-of-concept prototype reactors currently being developed in the US at the Idaho National Laboratory.
UK-based Core Power was formed in 2018 to pave the way for development and successful deployment of advanced reactor technologies for the maritime industries.
MIT’s Center for Advanced Nuclear Energy Systems (CANES) has developed a strategy for an Offshore Floating Nuclear Plant (OFNP). The offshore strategy proposes situating reactors in relatively deep water far away from coastal populations, linked only by an underwater power transmission line. Building nuclear plants in shipyards, like deep-sea oil platforms, would make it possible to use greatly streamlined methods of construction, significantly cutting costs.
Concept of OFNP. Source: MIT CANES
In addition, offshore siting minimizes safety concerns by eliminating risks of earthquakes and tsunamis as accident initiators, access to the essentially infinite ocean heat sink, and ensuring no one resides within the plant’s emergency planning zone.
Jacopo Buongiorno et al. (2014) “Offshore Small Modular Reactor (OSMR): An Innovative Plant Design For Societally Acceptable And Economically Attractive Nuclear Energy In A Post-Fukushima, Post-9/11 World” SMR2014-3306, Proceedings of the ASME 2014 Small Modular Reactors Symposium SMR2014