About a dozen Japanese companies, including major shipbuilders, have invested a total of about 10 billion yen ($72 million) in a British start-up developing floating offshore nuclear power plants, sources familiar with the matter said Wednesday.
Onomichi Dockyard Co. and Imabari Shipbuilding Co. are among the companies that provided funds to Core Power Ltd., which has been working on the project along with TerraPower LLC, a U.S. venture founded by Microsoft Corp. founder Bill Gates, the sources said.
It is believed that building nuclear plants offshore will make them less vulnerable to earthquakes and tsunami and also less costly than land-based plants.
The Japanese companies are aiming to acquire expertise through their stake and launch a similar project in Japan, said the sources.
The plant being developed is designed to liquefy salt by heating it above 400 C and mixing it with uranium. It would drive a turbine using thermal energy produced when molten uranium undergoes nuclear fission.
In Japan, many issues still need to be solved regarding the construction of offshore nuclear plants, including how to assess their safety.
"We've decided to join a demonstration project overseas, considering the speed of development," said an official of Onomichi Dockyard, who added the company is aiming for commercialization around 2030.