Nuclear-derived zero-carbon fuels could play a key role in decarbonizing the global marine shipping sector, according to a recent assessment by the Clean Air Task Force. In 2018, the international shipping industry accounted for 2.6% of global carbon dioxide emissions — more than the international aviation sector, and these emissions are on pace to triple by 2050.

The technical implications of using nuclear energy to produce zero-carbon fuels such as ammonia and hydrogen to power the shipping sector were evaluated, revealing that as nuclear power plants already use hydrogen in their daily operations, these facilities are well positioned to explore hydrogen production for on-site demand in the shipping sector. This firm power source is always available and can provide high-temperature steam for efficient fuels production, and much of the existing nuclear power fleet in the U.S. is accessible by coastal and navigable waterways.

The U.S. can contribute to this energy transition by increasing funding and tax credits to promote zero-carbon fuel production and nuclear-derived zero-carbon fuel production. Relevant agencies should be directed to explore and support the use of zero-carbon fuels, and zero-carbon or low-carbon fuel standards should be extended to promote marine sector decarbonization.

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