The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) is continuing its plans to build a mobile nuclear reactor and has released a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to build and demonstrate one at the National Laboratory in Idaho. The nuclear reactor will be designed to deliver one to five megawatts of power for at least three years of operation, DoD press release said.
Currently, the Department of Defense consumes 30 terawatts of energy each year and 10 million gallons of fuel per day. In an executive order signed earlier this year, President Biden called for consideration of climate change and national security issues. With plans to switch to an electric fleet for all non-tactical vehicles and the maturation of energy-intensive capabilities, energy demand from the Ministry of Energy is expected to increase further. He is being persecuted nuclear reactors as a carbon-free energy source.
To this end, the Ministry of Defense has launched Project Pele to create a prototype of a fourth-generation nuclear reactor that can operate even in remote and harsh environments. Following a preliminary design contest, the Department of Defense has selected two companies: Virginia-based BWXT Advanced Technologies LLC and the Maryland-based X Energy LLC. Both companies are currently working with the Office of Strategic Opportunities (SCO) to independently develop their concepts. Also, to facilitate rapid transport and use, the reactor structure is required to be ready for operation within three days of delivery and safely removed in no more than seven days. The final design review is scheduled for early 2022 and one of the companies will be selected to build the prototype thereafter.
TThe Ministry of Defense must also complete an environmental analysis before embarking on a prototype. In accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the recently published EIS project is now open for public discussion for a period of 45 days, which will be used in the final EIS and a decision on construction and testing in 2022.
The EIS also lists the vulnerability of local power grids as another reason for switching to portable nuclear reactors. Critics, however, cite that these reactors could in themselves become risky for troops. “There will always be a way for an adversary to damage a nuclear reactor and disperse its nuclear contents,” said Edwin Lyman, director of nuclear safety at the Union of Concerned Scientists. for a non-profit organization told the AP.
According to the EIS, the prototype will be built in one place, tested, then moved to another place and retested. The second place is expected to imitate real scenarios. “Unless the military is willing to spend what it takes to make them safe to use, especially in potential combat situations or foreign operational bases, I don’t think it’s probably sensible to deploy nuclear reactors in military theaters,” Lyman added.