US Army unveils plans to develop mobile nuclear reactors

US Army unveils plans to develop mobile nuclear reactors
USA: Army unveils plans to develop mobile nuclear reactors

The US Department of Defence (DoD) has unveiled its plans to develop a mobile micro nuclear reactor that could be used to power military bases.

DoD contracted three teams – BWX Technologies, Westinghouse Government Services and X-Energy – to develop micro-reactors under Project Pele led by the Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO).

In two-year period, one of the companies will be selected to build and demonstrate a prototype reactor.

The aims is to develop a safe, mobile and advanced nuclear micro-reactor.

Micro reactors are seen as a way to reduce the need for building expensive power infrastructure at military bases and deliver power to remote positions more easily. The DoD added that the reactors could also be employed to support disaster relief efforts when critical infrastructure is damaged.

The DoD aims to help the US military to sustain and expand operations over long periods by generating a nearly endless clean power supply. It estimates that it uses 30 terawatt-hours of electricity per year and as much as 10 million gallons of fuel a day.

Project Pele programme manager Dr Jeff Waksman said: “The Pele programme’s uniqueness lies in the reactor’s mobility and safety. 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.”

Commenting on the contract, BWX Technologies Nuclear Services Group president Ken Camplin told Army Technology: “BWXT has shipped 400 nuclear reactor cores to the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Programme and has led and/or supported the design of more than 40 nuclear reactor systems.

“We believe this experience will provide us a solid platform from which to complete a robust and innovative approach that will support the Defence Department’s front-line power needs for its service members. We are extremely pleased to receive this award and look forward to working with our partners to complete this phase of the project.”

SCO director Jay Dryer said: “The United States risks ceding nuclear energy technology leadership to Russia and China, by retaking technological leadership, the United States will be able to supply the most innovative advanced nuclear energy technologies.”

Westinghouse president and chief executive officer Patrick Fragman said: “We are honoured to participate in this strategically important programme, Mobile nuclear reactors offer clean, flexible, and reliable power for our customers. We are now developing technology to provide energy security for the Department of Defence, bringing our exciting concept to realisation.”

Neal Path

Neal Path is a reporter covering international affairs and defense news. He leads a team of specialist technical journalists and defense forecasting analysts, working across a range of online products. Neal Path is a defense technology specialist and has written widely on most areas of defense technology, but his particular areas of interest include missile defense, precision weapons, naval warfare, sensor capabilities and military operations.