The Pentagon awarded three companies with contracts to design a mobile nuclear reactor prototype. BWX Technologies Inc., of Lynchburg, Virginia, Westinghouse Government Services of Washington, D.C., and X-energy, LLC, of Greenbelt, Maryland, will work on the enterprise under a Strategic Capabilities Office initiative called Project Pele.
Once available, portable nuclear reactors would be used to provide power to remote operating bases and “a variety of [other] missions,” the Pentagon announced. The three companies will work on their respective designs for the next two years, at which point one firm will be selected to build and demonstrate a prototype. The plan calls for ultimate determination at that time if such a project is completely safe.
“The Pele program’s uniqueness lies in the reactor’s mobility and safety,” said Dr. Jeff Waksman, the 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 for quick setup and shut down, with a design that is inherently safe.”
The Strategic Capabilities Office and the Department of Energy’s nuclear-energy office have worked together to determine that development of a safe and small nuclear reactor is both possible and practicable. Planners envision such devices someday providing an alternative to conventional power sources. As it stands, the armed forces consume 30 terawatt hours of electricity annually, and 10 million gallons of fuel daily.
The Pentagon published in the Federal Register a related notice of intent to conduct an environmental impact statement.