World’s Largest Nuclear-Powered Container Ship Design Breaks Cover At Marintec China 2023 Expo

China’s Jiangnan Shipyard has debuted what has been dubbed “the world’s largest nuclear-powered container ship design” by the Chinese media. The container was unveiled at the ongoing Marintec China 2023 show in Shanghai, which began on December 5.

The Chinese state publication Global Times said in a report that Jiangnan Shipyard, which is owned by the China State Shipbuilding Corporation Limited, officially unveiled the ship type design for the 24000TEU-class nuclear-powered container ship.

The design of the container ship is significant because it reduces the possibility of a nuclear meltdown right away by using Molten Salt Reactors, which run at high temperatures and moderate pressures.

China State Shipbuilding Corporation Limited revealed that in the event of a breach accident, the reactor can be quickly stopped to prevent further escalation, highlighting the commitment to safety standards in the development of this ultra-large nuclear-powered container ship.

The China State Shipbuilding Corporation Limited stated that the new container ship is a revolutionary accomplishment by the shipyard in the development of ships with nearly zero emissions. 

According to reports, the Jiangnan Shipyard has been actively exploring ship types for container shipments and propulsion systems solutions to meet the demands of energy conservation and emissions reduction resulting from climate change. 

The reactor has been designed with excellent safety standards in mind. It operates at high temperatures and low pressures, which prevents nuclear meltdown in principle. The reactor can be promptly stopped even during a catastrophe to prevent further damage.

World’s Biggest Ocean Going Container Ship

According to one industry publication, the newly unveiled container ship may provide a genuine “zero-emissions” substitute.

If constructed, it would rank among the world’s biggest ocean-going container ships, with a load capacity that can accommodate up to 24,000 conventional containers. It will also be the first nuclear reactor driven by molten salt.

China’s brand new nuclear container ship (via Platform X)

In contrast to uranium-powered nuclear reactors aboard warships, this new reactor is probably going to employ thorium, a radioactive metal that is cheap and widely available in China. Moreover, the reactor efficiency and safety are increased because it won’t require a lot of water to cool.

Earlier this year, it was reported that the first thorium reactor in the country now has operating authorization from China’s nuclear safety authority, which is a major step forward in the nation’s quest for cutting-edge nuclear technologies.

The Shanghai Institute of Applied Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences is in charge of running the two-megawatt liquid-fueled thorium molten salt reactor (MSR), which is situated in Wuwei, Gansu province, near the Gobi Desert.

According to the experts working on this research, these reactors are tiny enough to be utilized for a wide range of applications and may be deployed practically anywhere, including ships. Due to the technology’s potential military applications, the majority of the research conducted for the project is classified, and not much material has been made public.

The Shanghai-based Jiangnan Shipyard unveiled the design for the new container ship, dubbed the KUN-24AP, at the city’s Marintec China exhibition. The unveiling implies that China is now prepared to introduce the technology to the rest of the world and has a great deal of faith in it.

The design already has an international certification from the DNV Classification Society, one of the top organizations in the global maritime sector, which should reassure purchasers in other countries about purchasing and using the design.

The journal Maritime China said on its official WeChat account, “In response to climate change and energy conservation requirements, Jiangnan Shipbuilding has actively explored container ship models and power systems solutions.”

It added, “The new ship model uses nuclear energy as a clean energy source and adopts an internationally advanced fourth-generation molten salt reactor solution. The proposed design of super-large nuclear container ships will truly achieve ‘zero emissions’ during the operation cycle of this type of ship.”

China is not the only nation in the world to implement this idea. Similar designs have been developed by shipbuilders in Europe, South Korea, Japan, and the US. However, none has had any major breakthroughs.

Industry analysts claim that China’s shipbuilding sector, which has grown quickly in recent years, accounted for more than 60% of new ship orders placed worldwide this year. China’s navy has grown significantly as a result of the growth of the civil shipbuilding sector, which has produced ships with cutting-edge equipment, including electromagnetic launch systems and ultra-long-range radar.