Ulstein unveils thorium powerboat concept to help cruise ships

El grupo naval noruego Ulstein ha presentado Thor, su diseño conceptual para un buque de reabastecimiento, investigación y rescate (3R) de 149 m de eslora, propulsado por un reactor de sales funds (MSR) de torio que puede usarse para recargar cruceros con baterías in the sea.

As environmental awareness grows, ecotourism has become a booming business, but with the desire to visit exotic environments comes the need to protect these often under-threatened places. This is particularly urgent in the case of cruise ships going to the polar regions, which are very fragile.

Polar cruisers not only face the intrinsic need to protect Arctic and Antarctic coastal regions, but also increasingly stringent government regulations and pressure from environmental groups. In addition, frozen seas make it difficult to supply ships outside ports, are expensive and can damage the area.

To remedy this situation, Ulstein envisions the multirole Thor, which could not only operate in the polar seas to carry out search and rescue missions without the need to refuel, but could also recharge the next generation of cruise ships at electric propulsion that work. with large battery banks.

Since the Thor is designed to refuel these future cruise ships, Ulstein is also working on the Sif concept, which is a 330ft (100m) Ice 1C class vessel with 80 passengers and 80 crew that could be refueled at the sea ​​by the nuclear-powered Thor.

The Thor would use a fourth-generation MSR portable thorium reactor, which is powered by thorium instead of uranium. In an MSR, thorium dissolves in a mixture of salts which is heated to 700°C. This mixture serves as a coolant and reservoir for the thorium.

Being a molten salt reactor, it is under atmospheric pressure and uses passive cooling systems that can operate in the event of an emergency shutdown. This molten mix also means that the reactor can be refueled and cleaned by a chemical loop.

According to Ulstein, it could produce enough power for four expedition cruisers at the same time, and its nuclear reactor would not need refueling for the life of the ship. Both Thor and Sif are based on Ulstein’s X-BOW ship design and their electric propulsion allows for quiet sailing. In addition to the reactor, Thor’s design includes helipads, firefighting equipment, rescue booms, workboats, laboratories, and a conference room.


MSRs have enormous potential to make clean shipping possible. There is a lot of uncertainty about the fuels of the future, but here we have an abundant source of energy which, with the right approach, can be safe, much more efficient, cheaper and with a smaller environmental footprint than any alternative. existing. From my perspective, I consider this to be the most viable, and potentially the only credible, solution for a zero-emissions fleet that can operate on commercial terms and cost levels. The “Thor” concept is exactly the kind of innovation we need for lasting success at sea.

Jan Emblemsvåg, professor at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, expert in the field of thorium and nuclear energy production.

Going through ulstein.com

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