Military

US military pursues nuclear microreactors for rapid, remote deployment

US military pursues nuclear mi...
The US Department of Defense is funding the development of prototype nuclear microreactors
The US Department of Defense is funding the development of prototype nuclear microreactors
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The US Department of Defense is funding the development of prototype nuclear microreactors
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The US Department of Defense is funding the development of prototype nuclear microreactors

The US Department of Defense (DOD) has awarded contracts to three companies to develop mobile nuclear microreactors for military applications under a Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO) initiative called Project Pele. Valued between US$11,953,036 and $14,309,000, the contracts will fund the initial two-year design phase after which one company will be selected to build a prototype reactor.

The US military may be the world's most powerful, but it's also the world's most energy-hungry. According to the DOD, the department uses 30 terawatt-hours of electricity per year and over 10 million gallons of fuel per day, and those amounts are still increasing. Not only is this energy consumed in quantities suitable for a small city, but it's often required at remote sites at the end of long, vulnerable logistical pipelines.

It's partly for this reason that Project Pele was established in January 2019 when the SCO sent out a request for information regarding the development of a safe, mobile and advanced nuclear microreactor to private industry. From these respondents, three winners were selected: BWX Technologies, Westinghouse Government Services, and X-energy. These will work with the US Department of Energy, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the National Nuclear Security Administration, and other companies to quickly build working prototype microreactors and guide them through evaluation, safety analysis, construction, and testing.

What these reactors will be like is not clear, though the DOD says they are intended to be both portable and capable of operating for long periods anywhere in the world without the need for expensive power infrastructure. In addition, they will be suitable for civilian applications, including disaster relief or powering remote communities.

Since Westinghouse is one of the selected companies, it's possible that the microreactors will resemble the Westinghouse eVinci microreactor. According to the company, this is a transportable reactor that is built, fueled, and assembled in a factory before being transported to the site. It can be installed in under a month, operate autonomously, and can generate between 200 kW and 5 MW.

According to the DOD, the engineering design phase of Project Pele will be up to two years, followed by an assessment as to whether a microreactor can meet the safety requirements.

"The Pele Program’s uniqueness lies in the reactor’s mobility and safety," says Jeff Waksman, Project Pele program manager. "We will leverage our industry partners to develop a system that can be safely and rapidly moved by road, rail, sea or air and for quick set up and shut down, with a design which is inherently safe."

Source: DOD

6 comments
aksdad
We're on the right track here. Nuclear is the by far the most efficient energy production technology ever invented. It's also clean, emissionless, extraordinarily safe, and becoming even safer in newer designs with automatic passive shutdown. But it's expensive and the waste is extremely toxic. Factory-built modular reactors can drastically lower the cost and advanced fuel cycles can reduce the waste to essentially nothing while making the reactor even more efficient. With the recent demonstration of cost-effective extraction of uranium from seawater, nuclear reactors could potentially provide all our energy for a billion years. Tear down the ugly windmills and go green.
paul314
So just where will these things be deployed, and under what kind of security? And how fast can they be un-deployed if circumstances warrant? Just wondering, because it seems that putting potential radiological disasters in unstable parts of the world...
Username
So they're asking for a Naquadah generator!
Food4Thought
I can picture the AT-AT 'Walkers' attacking the rebel base on the planet Hoth. "Aim for the reactor".
Expanded Viewpoint
Oh good freakin' grief!! Where do I start here? Back in the late 1990s, some engineer did an energy audit of nuclear power, adding up ALL of the costs to get a nuclear reactor up and running, including how much Carbon based fuels were burned to get to that end point, and what he came up with was that we would have been better off just leaving the Uranium in the ground and burned the Carbon based fuels directly to make our electricity!! They were burned anyway in mining equipment, trucks and power plants to make electricity to refine the Uranium, so, the only logical conclusion to be drawn from the exercise, is that the nuclear power plant industry was created in order to obtain materials for making nuclear bombs! And now these total FOOLS want to deploy miniature nuke plants that could easily fall into the wrong hands?!?! Are they completely bonkers or what???
ljaques
Excellent! More power to ya, guys. <groan> I've been waiting for neighborhood nuke plants all my life.