Atomic energy was one of the most important breakthroughs in 20th century. It gave many opportunities to the man kind, which found its use in military. Many developed countries started building its own nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and submarines. But why not nuclear-powered merchant ships? Why nuclear-powered reactors are preferred over diesel powered engines in warships? What are floating nuclear power stations? Will it create a new path in energy industry? We will look after them in this article.

US Navy Carrier
Source: Internet, Courtesy:-

Nuclear powered warships: The heat generated inside the nuclear reactors, powers the propeller of the ship. Not only the propeller, they power all the electrical machineries on board. War ships were able to work on their operation for so long before refueling the reactor. Few ships can last for around twenty years before refueling. This is the major advantage of nuclear-powered ships over oil or coal fueled ships. All the fuel is stored inside the reactor, this reduces the dependency on cargo or supply space.

Nuclear powered civilian/merchant ships: There were only few experimental ships developed in the past. Hardly one or two ships are running at present. But why? USA built the first nuclear powered civilian ship. Its design was too small and economically too expensive to. It was neither an efficient freighter nor a good passenger carrier.


  • The major problem in using nuclear powered ships is its radiation leakage.  Which will become a major threat to the civilians and marine life.
  • Its infrastructure was too expensive and the maintenance wasn’t cost efficient.
  • It required specialized nuclear shore staff and service faculty.
  • A minute breakdown in the reactor would cause a severe damage.
  • The waste disposal is a major challenge.

Floating nuclear power stations: It is the platform where one or more nuclear reactors are located on a floating platform at sea. It offers various advantages like, it reduces the environment impacts on land, provides electricity to the places with difficult access, it efficiently powers the desalinating machineries which provides fresh water and etc. The world’s first nuclear reactor was built by Russia and they named it as Akademik lomosnov, which was named after a scientist. The sea environment must be taken into account, which includes the access of workers and crew, and should definitely make sure that the radioactive material doesn’t get leaked to the sea.

Conclusion: Despite this, there is still interest among companies to build nuclear powered merchant/civilian ships. Their idea includes running the ship with full capacity for almost 25 long years before refuelling. But it is still in experimental stage. It is been proven that Nuclear power reactors are both scientifically and practically feasible for ice breakers. We will be looking after them in our upcoming articles.


  • Nuclear energy is the 2nd largest source of carbon-less emission power.
  • Over 160 ships are powered by nuclear reactors, most are submarines.
  • US navy has the largest fleet of aircraft carriers( nuclear powered).

Authored By:- Cdt. Krishnasai Venkatesan, TMI

Similar Posts

Hey Visitor! Let us know what are you thinking about this post!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.