When it comes to the future of freight fuels, there has been a range of options, from hydrogen fuel cells to liquid petroleum gas. However, one unexpected solution is also being investigated: nuclear power.
A fuel technology firm co-founded by Bill Gates is part of a push to move a new generation of nuclear reactors onto shipping freight which could transform the entire industry by creating powerful atomic batteries that can be used at sea.
His company, TerraPower, has entered into a collaboration with London based CORE POWER, Southern Company and Orano USA to further develop the technology for freight, according to a CORE POWER press release.
The technology uses a system known as molten salt reactors, which do not rely on the intense pressures seen with a typical water reactor. This means that not only are they less volatile but can also be built much smaller, without the same intense containment structures as a typical nuclear reactor.
The reactor uses thorium, a metallic element that acts as the coolant and the fuel. The result is close to zero emissions power, with incredible reliability and exceptionally low fuel costs.
This could have an impact on Russia freight in fuel, as reliable and efficient power would remove the need for many fuel shipments across the world.
The main issue potentially holding freight fleets using molten salt reactors is the upfront cost, which could be mitigated by leasing the batteries long term.
The four companies involved in the collaboration agreement have applied to the US Department of Energy to receive an award to build a prototype proof of concept reactor.