UK start-up Core Power and partners have clinched a key development deal with shipbuilding giant HD Hyundai Heavy Industries to work on nuclear power for shipping.

The companies will explore the use of small modular reactor (SMR) technology with US operations TerraPower and Southern Company.

The deal was forged at a first technology exchange meeting with the South Korean shipbuilding giant, the partners said.

Subsidiary HD Korea Shipbuilding & Offshore Engineering (KSOE) said the gathering took place in Washington.

The project centres on TerraPower’s first-of-a-kind molten chloride fast reactor (MCFR) design.

MCFR technology operates at higher temperatures than conventional reactors, generating electricity more efficiently and without emissions.

HHI entered the next-generation energy technology field in November 2022 by investing $30m in TerraPower.

KSOE said it expects the joint research to speed up the development of the offshore and maritime nuclear power market, which is attracting attention.

The yard will send a research and development team to TerraPower in March.

KSOE will also join in with the establishment of a system for the application of marine reactors with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and major classification societies ABS and Lloyd’s Register.

Net-zero future

Core chief executive Mikal Boe told TradeWinds: “Adding Hyundai’s world-class expertise in shipbuilding and process engineering and Core Power’s 60-plus shareholders from the maritime and energy industries illustrates how the shipping industry is moving towards a net-zero future with new nuclear solutions.”

“With two strong maritime partners on the MCFR development team, we aim to accelerate the development programme,” he added.

Last October, Core said the world’s first MCFR has passed another milestone in helping decarbonise the sector.

Southern and TerraPower successfully started pumped-salt operations in an integrated effects test (IET), which they described as a “major achievement in the development of fourth-generation molten salt reactor technology”.

Core aims to use molten salt reactors to power vessels and on floating power stations to produce green energy.

Since installing the IET at TerraPower’s laboratory in Everett, Washington, the project team has completed mechanical, electrical and controls verification, and commissioned all systems.

The latest milestone involved using hot argon and chloride salts to confirm readiness, including filling and flushing drain tanks and verifying the operation of freeze valves.