Crowley and BWXT Working on Nuclear Power Generation Ships for Defense and Disaster Needs

September 20, 2023

Credit: Crowley
Credit: Crowley

Shipping and energy supply chain firm Crowley has teamed with nuclear power specialist BWX Technologies through a memorandum of understanding for a ship concept that, the companies say, has the potential to generate alternative, zero-carbon emission energy for defense and disaster needs by including a microreactor on board.

The two U.S.-based companies will jointly pursue and develop opportunities relative to the design, engineering, and development of new shallow-draft hull ships that will supply small-scale nuclear energy to shoreside locations. 

"The new ships would feature the latest technology available for factory-fabricated microreactors, readily deployed into a shipyard configuration for ease of installation on the vessel. The onboard power plant would supply energy to shore facilities, such as military bases in remote island locations, backup utility grids after disasters, and provide power in other scenarios where traditional electricity sources are damaged or not possible," Crowley said.

The new vessel concept envisions a 378-foot (~115-meter) ship that pulls from the logistics and marine capabilities of Crowley, a longtime operator with in-house vessel design by its Crowley Engineering Services, and the nuclear capabilities of BWXT, a supplier of nuclear components, fuel, and services to the U.S. government for more than 60 years. 

 "Our cooperation with BWXT will move Crowley for the first time into the nuclear energy sector, a key part of our commitment to sustainable, alternative energy sources. This concept supports the U.S. Department of Energy’s goal of maintaining U.S. leadership in nuclear energy technology as well as many the U.S. Department of Defense’s strategic goals for operational energy,” said Shiju Zacharia, senior vice president and general manager, Crowley Government Solutions.

This new vessel concept pairs traditional propulsion while carrying a modular reactor between 5 and 50 megawatts that can be activated upon arrival at the destination and be deactivated and transported after the power supply is discontinued. Buoyed power delivery cables will enable the ships to deploy energy connections to shore. Shallow draft hulls allow the vessels to maneuver to strategically deliver power for military activities or if disasters limit harbor access, Crowley said.

“We are excited to work alongside Crowley to leverage our ongoing reactor development and demonstration programs, advancing nuclear technology into new and novel markets to deliver zero carbon emissions energy generation to strategic locations,” said Joe Miller, president of BWXT Advanced Technologies LLC.

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