Nuclear in maritime took centre stage at a recent Lloyd’s Register Advisory Board meeting with a delegation from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), led by Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi, who gave a presentation to the LR board on the IAEA’s position on nuclear in maritime. LR’s CEO Nick Brown was also engaged in the discussion.

Both parties recognised the need for alignment on regulatory approaches for small modular reactors in a floating environment and discussed opportunities for LR to support IAEA’s projects and regulatory journey.

A discussion hosted by Mark Tipping, LR’s Power to X Segment Director and Joe Borg, LR’s Maritime Segment Director revealed that there is an expected alignment of safety expectations between the IAEA and LR with respect to the deployment of new nuclear in floating environments. This understanding is drawn from a mutual recognition of the safety features of the new technology, approaches to inherently safe physics and the application of passive safety systems to fourth generation nuclear reactors.

This work will inform the regulatory framework required to put reactors into a floating environment, paving the way to establishing trade routes for nuclear vessels, also known as pink shipping corridors.

Central to the conversation was society’s legacy perception of nuclear technologies. Both the IAEA and LR recognise that extensive community engagement to educate both maritime and commercial stakeholders on the inherently safe physics behind the fourth-generation technology will be fundamental to nuclear’s adoption in maritime.

Driven by a high demand for fourth-generation technology to support the huge and growing power demands of AI data centres, the first applications of the new technology are projected to be land-based, agreed delegates. This will benefit the marine industry as by the time the new reactors reach the water, they will have been through the complex and costly licencing phase required for marine application.

Talks also referenced a number of key projects, such as the recent joint development project between LR, Zodiac, HD KSOE and KEPCO for the R&D of nuclear-propelled ships, and considered LR’s other work to advance the adoption of nuclear as part of a multi-fuel pathway towards decarbonisation for floating nuclear power, offshore and ship. 

“As the world increasingly turns to nuclear for sustainable development, we expect to see further advancements, including in the maritime sector to decarbonize shipping—a key objective of the International Maritime Organization,” said Director General Rossi. “However, for nuclear energy to become a viable option to reduce commercial shipping's 3%contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions, a clear roadmap is essential. International collaboration will be crucial to this effort and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will be at the heart of these efforts. Thanks to Lloyd’s Register for the invitation to exchange on the future of marine nuclear.”

Nuclear power has been gaining traction across a wide range of sectors. It’s inclusion in the first Global Stocktake was confirmed under the Paris Agreement at COP28 in Dubai marked a historic moment for the IAEA.