SEOUL -- South Korea's HD Hyundai will make a foray into the floating offshore nuclear power market. Compared to conventional land-based plants, offshore nuclear power plants are recognized for their enhanced safety during natural disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis, as well as a reduced probability of local conflicts during the site acquisition process. The company will work with global nuclear power firms, focusing on small modular reactors such as TerraPower, an American nuclear reactor company founded by Bill Gates.
Small modular reactors (SMRs) have been studied to offer solutions to the challenges associated with traditional light-water reactors. These compact reactors, designed with modular technology, often allow for less on-site construction, increased containment efficiency, and improved safety.
HD Korea Shipbuilding & Offshore Engineering (HD KSOE), the holding company of HD Hyundai, will collaborate with three partners working on SMR technology -- TerraPower, Southern Company, and Core Power. The four sides aim to utilize molten salt reactors (MSRs), a reactor that uses molten salt as its main fuel. MSRs are acknowledged to decrease the need for costly containment structures, eliminate hydrogen as a source of explosion risk, and avoid the production of dangerous, pressurized radioactive fission gases.
Starting in March 2024, HD KSOE will deploy its SMR research team to TerraPower to work on projects, including the development of nuclear power plant ships. TerraPower and Southern Company are currently carrying out a joint research project to commercialize MSRs by 2035. The initiative that involves other global SMR companies has received a five-year funding of $171 million from the U.S. Department of Energy.
There has been a rush from South Korean companies to push for SMR businesses since President Yoon Suk-yeol pledged full support for the adoption of SMRs. In June 2021, Samsung Heavy Industries (SHI), a major shipbuilder in South Korea, partnered with the state-run Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI) to develop MSRs for ships and floating nuclear power plants.
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