Ministry of Defense to build prototype mobile micronuclear reactor


  • A defense science council has recommended the ministry use small modular reactors to meet its growing energy needs.
  • In early 2022, the Defense Ministry will review final designs for prototypes for two teams.
  • Critics told The Associated Press that adversaries could target the microreactors during transport.

The US Department of Defense is gathering public comment on a prototype mobile nuclear microreactor it plans to assemble at the Idaho National Laboratory, the Associated Press reported.

The department’s colossal energy consumption – 30 terawatt hours of electricity per year and more than 10 million gallons of fuel per day – is expected to increase significantly over the next few years, according to the project’s environmental impact study.

A defense scientific council mandated by the ministry recommended that it deploy small modular reactors to meet its growing energy needs, according to the environmental impact statement. The Idaho National Laboratory defines micronuclear reactors as small nuclear reactors that produce around 1 to 50 megawatts and can operate independently of power grids.

Two teams, BWXT Advance Technologies of Virginia and X-energy of Maryland, are developing final designs for the prototype, which will be reviewed by the department in early 2022, according to a March press release. After the completion of the environmental scan for the project, one of the teams could be selected to build and demonstrate a prototype, the statement said.

“A safe, small and transportable nuclear reactor would meet this growing demand with a resilient, carbon-free power source that does not increase the fuel requirements of the DOD, while supporting critical operations in remote and austere environments,” a March press release from the Defense Ministry said.

Still, critics have expressed fears to The Associated Press that the microreactors could be targeted by American adversaries, especially while in transit.

“In my opinion, these reactors could cause more logistical problems and risks to troops and property than they solve,” Edwin Lyman, director of the nonprofit, told The Associated Press. Nuclear Power Safety at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “And unless the military is willing to spend what it takes to make them safe to use, especially in potential combat situations or foreign operating bases, then I think he’s probably reckless. to deploy nuclear reactors in theaters of war without providing the protection they would need. “

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