Expected doubling of marine trade within the next two decades, threats of global warming amplified by the increased consumption of fossil fuels, globalization of world economy resulting in growing need for rapid ocean transport of time sensitive freight, and recent rise in the fossil fuel prices prompted the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers (SNAME) to initiate a study to examine power plant options for the next generation of high-speed merchant ships. Emerging nuclear power technologies, which might be applicable to such ships, including long core life light water reactors, heavy liquid metal cooled reactors, and gas cooled reactors are discussed. Results of a study comparing economic benefits of nuclear and conventional gas turbine merchant ship propulsion systems are reported. Finally, cost and performance characteristics that would make nuclear power a viable alternative for high-speed merchant ships are identified.

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