Understanding Nuclear Marine Propulsion

Nuclear ships are rapidly gaining popularity in the maritime industry for the myriad advantages they offers. Nuclear ships use atomic engines which have lower fuel costs and last for many years and have practically zero emissions. The working of a Nuclear Ship is based on the simple nuclear fission reaction.

Working of a Nuclear Ship

The working of Nuclear ships basically depends on the nuclear fission reactions taking place in the nuclear reactors. A nuclear fission reaction involves splitting of the nucleus of an atom to produce smaller nuclei, i.e. free neutrons and photons. The atoms once split result in a huge amount of heat-emission and gamma radiation. Usually, elements having long core lives are used as they would then require refuelling only once in 10 years or so. Nuclear fission reactions produce a lot of heat and this is the driving force for the working of a nuclear ship.

Nuclear Marine Propulsion

The nuclear plant of the ship requires constant recirculation of water. The reactor, pumps, and steam generators are initially circulated with water. The heat emitted from the nuclear reactor is used to heat water, which is circulated in hollow coils surrounding the reactors. This is done at a very high pressure to prevent the boiling of water at this stage.

The hot water is then transferred to another hollow coil that has water at normal temperature. This produces enormous amounts of steam .The steam generated from the generator is the source of energy for the turbine generators, which make the ship move forward by rotating the propeller of the ship. The steam, after passing through the turbines, is cooled, condensed and then re-circulated to the steam generators by pumps. The enormous amount of heat emitted in the process is the main reason for the nuclear propulsion. Surplus electricity generated in the process is stored in batteries for emergency use and also to meet the electricity requirements on board.

The reducing availability of fossil fuels may cause widespread use of marine nuclear propulsion in near future. Nuclear Ships have also received criticism as any fault in the working of a nuclear ship can cause unimaginable amount of contamination in the sea and danger to the human life on board. Therefore, modern day nuclear ships are more safe and advanced. They have large protective castings to protect the reactors.

The quality and durability of parts of the reactors are a very importing factor in the efficient working of a nuclear ship reactor as the components are not open for inspection for very long durations of time.  The fears about crew safety, maintenance, disposal costs and quality are now being condensed slowly as there is a greater pressure to have improved performance efficiency in naval ships.

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