Norway-based Stella Polaris, one of the world's largest supplier of coldwater shrimp, says its dream of a nuclear-power trawler isn't dead, despite the project being passed over for federal research funds.
The plan is seemingly simple: a 150-ton microreactor, the size of a 40-foot container, would offer zero-emissions power to harvest one of the world's most sustainable wild shrimp fisheries.
But Jaran Rauo, development director at Stella Polaris, said the trouble is that the very thing that would make the operation sustainable -- nuclear power -- is a lighting rod for public opposition.
"Most people associate nuclear power with Fukushima and Chernobyl," Rauo told IntraFish sister site Kystens Næringsliv.
"There are important aspects to include in a feasibility assessment, but as I understand it, we are talking about a completely different risk through the use of much newer technology than just 10 to 20 years ago."
Stella Polaris and the Institute for Energy Engineering explored several options for how to create more sustainable power for its vessels, including hydrogen, methanol and ammonia.
The research clearly favored nuclear power as the most sustainable option -- a zero emission option, in fact.
Rather than dismiss the idea because of the controversy, the groups are pushing for a feasibility study.
"Radical challenges such as climate and sustainability require radical solutions," Rauo said.
"And in my view, it hardly gets more radical than microreactors. But someone has to start the investigations related to opportunities and challenges for it."
Stella Polaris and the Institute for Energy Engineering still need to understand the best technology, for example whether a uranium or thorium reactor might be best.
"The technology itself must be both safe and compact, and is referred to as a modular "microreactor,'" Rauo said.
In mid-December, the team had a setback on its ambitions when its project was passed over in a NOK 623 million ($61 million/€57 million) funding round from the Norwegian Research Council's new Green Platform initiative.
The initiative, funded by the Ministry of Trade and Fisheries, is designed to develop sustainable business concepts that can both balance sustainability and economic value.
A large shrimp harvesting vessel typically takes on 350,000 liters of marine fuel every five weeks, towing two to three fine-mesh trawls, oftentimes in rough water.
Rauo said the complications of fishing at sea make the vessel a perfect pilot.
"If we can make this work in a shrimp trawler, we think the technology can be transferred to other types of vessels," he said.
"With all the debate around climate targets and energy access, we see that it is becoming increasingly relevant. In our view, this is the future for ocean-going fleets. I don't think we will let go of this."