Lead-cooled Fast Reactor could help decarbonise shipping

The shipping industry’s net zero ambitions could receive a boost from newcleo’s LFR (Lead-cooled Fast Reactor) for naval propulsion.

LFR Reactor
LFR Reactor - newcleo

To this end, the London headquartered SMR developer has signed an agreement with shipbuilder Fincantieri and certification company RINA to conduct a feasibility study for nuclear applications in the shipping industry.

The deployment of newcleo’s LFR would involve placing a closed mini reactor on vessels as a small nuclear battery producing a 30MW of electric output. According to newcleo, this would require infrequent refuelling (once every 10-15 years), very limited maintenance and easy replacement at end of life.

In a statement, Stefano Buono, newcleo chairman and CEO, said: “I am delighted that we are launching a project for civil nuclear naval propulsion with this important feasibility study. Fincantieri and RINA are two global leaders in the shipping sector, and combining their expertise with our technology innovation can bring a real solution to the issue of carbon emissions in maritime transport.

"From our conception, newcleo’s ambition is to contribute to accelerating decarbonisation and providing clean, sustainable and affordable energy to meet the needs of communities and businesses.”


The shipping industry moves 90 per cent of global goods and, according to the fourth International Maritime Organisation (IMO) GHG Study 2020, is responsible 2.9 per cent of anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The report noted that GHG emissions of total shipping have increased from 977 million tonnes in 2012 to 1,076 million tonnes in 2018, mainly due to a continuous increase of global maritime trade. On July 7, 2023, the IMO approved new targets for greenhouse gas reduction, aiming for net zero by or around 2050.

Ugo Salerno, chairman and CEO of RINA, said: “The improvement of fuel efficiency and vessel design is already giving good results in reducing shipping footprint, but in order to reach the targets fixed for this industry we need alternative fuels with low carbon content from well to waste.

"Nuclear will be one of the answers to these objectives. In addition, small modular reactors will be the most efficient solution to apply nuclear to shipping.”