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Does anyone have based information about the maintenance of a SMR reactor?

Ander Eguiluz Belar's picture
Marine Engineer, EHU

FInal year student. Woking on a ship nuclear propulsion document. 

  • Member since 2021
  • 5 items added with 1,108 views
  • Oct 27, 2021

In my final year investigation, I´m researching about the implementation of SMR to merchant ships, so they dont generate those COx. But unluckely I´m having some difficulties in my researching job, cause there is a lack of info on the net about the specific topic of this new technology.


Any help would be appreciated.

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I would focus my research into three catagories: 1. Companies who are working on the technology today (Fluor, NuScale Power, Westinghouse Nuclear, etc.), professional organizations who are aiding in the R&D (ASME, World Nuclear Organization, Nuclear Energy Agency, etc.), and the nuclear energy industry regulatory agencies (NRC, IAEA, US Dept of Energy, etc.) responsible for writing the rules. Search those three silos thoroughly and you should come up with some good info - although you may have to pay for some of the papers. I'd also take a look at anything you can find on the US Navy's program. Although their technology is outdated by your standards and their philosophies are biased by their tasking (warship) vs. yours (merchant marine), they are in the business of teaching 18-19 year old kids how to operate and maintain nuclear reactors. I'm sure that some of their knowledge-transfer principles would cross over into your environment.    

Ander Eguiluz Belar's picture
Ander Eguiluz Belar on Nov 2, 2021

Thanks Brian, i´ll look in the US Navy Program.

There is a lot of interest in use of SMRs for merchant ships.  In terms of SMRs on ships and maintenance for them, the foremost nation with experience in this area is Russia which has several nuclear powered ice breakers and one floating commercial SMR. Russian plans to build at least five more floating nuclear power plants for commercial applications on ships or shore based floating power stations.

The Russian SMRs installed in the ice breakers have reactors that run on highly enrich nuclear fuel (U235=35%) (35MWe in two per ship)  which is not suitable for commercial ships due to nonproliferation issues. Rosatom has been down blending fuel and redesigning their ice breaker SMRs for commercial applications.


China has one floating nuclear power plant based on an SMR design.  Using it for merchant ship propulsion is very likely in the cards.

In terms of firms that are actively developing SMRs for merchant ships, I have a post on my blog about several recent developments in this area.

I suggest contacting these sources to request information on maintenance issues.  Key items are the fuel cycle, e.g, how long are fuel assemblies in the core before they have to be replaced, management of spent fuel, and ongoing maintenance of pumps, etc.  You also will want to look at maintenance of the non-nuclear elements of the propulsion system including how heat from the reactor is used to power a turbine (electric motors) or direct drive with steam.

Ander Eguiluz Belar's picture
Ander Eguiluz Belar on Nov 2, 2021

Thanks Dan, I red about the Russian vessels so I could use their konwledges. I´ve bought the book about the Sevmorput icebreaker. I´ll update about my work.

Andrew, to the best of my knowledge there are currenly no SMRs on merchant ships. Nuclear merchant ships using non-modular reactors were proven economical and reliable over 40 years ago, but were doomed by irrational public fear.

There's really no reason to use SMRs for commercial shipping, other than the perception they would be safer. Marine nuclear reactors powered by HALEU (High-Assay Low-Enriched Uranium) fuel are far more powerful for the amount of space they occupy, and there's no evidence they'd be any less safe.

Ander Eguiluz Belar's picture
Ander Eguiluz Belar on Nov 2, 2021

Thanks Bob, I didn´t thought about it. But I think the first steps of the nuclear propulsion weren´t the best, however, i hope we could try again and convince the population about it.

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