US Army OKs Mobile Nuclear Reactor Prototype in Idaho – KIRO 7 News Seattle
BOISE, Idaho — (AP) — The U.S. Department of Defense plans to build an advanced mobile nuclear microreactor prototype at the Idaho National Laboratory in eastern Idaho.
Late last week, the department approved Project Pele’s plan to build the reactor and reactor fuel outside of Idaho, then assemble and operate the reactor at the lab.
The decision follows a two-volume, 600-page environmental impact statement that includes public comments evaluating alternatives for building and operating a gas-cooled microreactor that could generate 1 to 5 megawatts of electricity. .
“Advanced nuclear energy has the potential to be a strategic game-changer for the United States, both for the (Department of Defense) and for the commercial sector,” said Jeff Waksman, program manager for the Pelé project. . “For it to be adopted, it must first be demonstrated successfully under real-world operating conditions.
Officials previously said preparing test sites at the Idaho National Laboratory and then building and testing the microreactor would take about three years. The ministry said the project is subject to the availability of funds.
The ministry said two reactor designs are under consideration and the chosen one will be announced later. The department said both designs are high-temperature gas-cooled reactors using enriched uranium as fuel.
If the project goes ahead, officials said it would be the first Generation IV nuclear reactor to operate in the United States. The Defense Ministry said the first generation IV reactor to generate electricity was a Chinese reactor that started up last September.
The department said it uses 30 terawatt hours of electricity per year and more than 10 million gallons (37.9 million liters) of fuel per day, and it expects energy demand to increase with a transition towards a fleet of non-tactical electric vehicles. Thirty terawatt hours is more energy than many small countries consume in a year.
Critics of the military’s use of small mobile nuclear reactors have said they could pose more logistical problems and risks to troops than they solve. Another concern is that nuclear reactors located in potential combat zones or foreign operating bases could themselves become targets.
The Idaho National Laboratory sits on the U.S. Department of Energy’s 890-square-mile (2,305-square-kilometer) site in the High Desert Sagebrush Steppe, about 80 kilometers west of Mount Falls. Idaho. All testing of prototype reactors would take place at the Department of Energy site. The lab has several facilities to help build and test the microreactor.
This demonstration of the reactor would include start-up tests, moving the reactor to a new site, and testing at the second site. The second location would mimic a real-life situation by testing the reactor’s ability to meet energy demands.
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