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Nuclear reactors to power yachts?

Nuclear reactors could be used to power yachts within 20 years a conference on alternative fuels has been told.

That’s the belief of Ronno Schouten, senior specialist Feadship which has been carrying out research into the alternative fuel.

The wider topic of alternative fuels and advanced state of the art technologies has been under discussion as part of the Monaco Energy Boat Challenge week.

The conference held at the Yacht Club de Monaco aims to build the yachting sector of the future with methanol and its role towards the net zero goal also among the topics covered.

“At Lürssen we’ve been looking at alternative fuels for many years and we’ve looked into different kinds,” said Bernhard Urban, head of development and innovation at Lürssen who explained that the shipyard is focusing on methanol.

“There are several criteria that are relevant for alternative fuels such as energy density, safety, handling and so on.”

And he compared the features of methanol and hydrogen stating that he believes methanol is the most promising fuel regarding energy density as it is easy to handle and can be easily stored in the bottom of a boat.

We need yards, technical partners, but also for yacht owners and crews to be confident.

Paolo Bertetti

Hydrogen has a reduced energy density and needs to be stored in a cylindrical tank and not stored not on the bottom of the ship, instead taking up valuable space within a yacht.

“Now there’s more or less an understanding in yachting industry looking at the different engine manufacturers that are developing engines for methanol,” he added.

Paolo Bertetti, vice president Technical and R&D at Sanlorenzo, added that the marine industry needs to work together.

“We need yards, technical partners, but also for yacht owners and crews to be confident,” he said.

And fuels need to be made available by ports and authorities.

Nuclear energy

The role of nuclear energy in the yachting sector was also discussed with the conference hearing that it is possible to have a nuclear reactor on board of a yacht, however shipbuilders need to examine how effective it is.

“We started doing research around ten years ago but for small reactors we still have to wait,” said Ronno Schouten, senior specialist Feadship.

“We’ve seen that is possible to build it in the yacht, which will then be a little bit bigger and a little bit heavier but, as most of our yachts sail in a limited time of the year, we think it’s less effective to have a nuclear reactor on board.”

And he explained that a nuclear reactor can provide 100% of the power 100% of the time, but it is not often that full power is required.

“We think is actually more effective to have a nuclear reactor on shore or somewhere floating,” said Ronno.

If safety issues are solved and the technology is accepted by the public, there could be nuclear reactors on board yachts in 20 to 30 years’ time.

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