Mobile mini-nuclear reactors will provide power to the US military
WASHINGTON, BM – Easy to transport and with a capacity of one to five megawatts, the mobile nuclear reactor is an idea of the US command from 2019 and has already received funding for fiscal 2022. US President Joe Biden’s first military budget provided nearly $ 60 million for development and prototyping.
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The project is called Pele. Information about him is scarce, and this is also stated in the White House budget document. The project is already secret and requires a very high level of classification. Under the 2022 financial framework, Pele will have to present a working prototype to move to the next phase. The Pele project has previously received funding from the US defense budget. Still, it was under another program – improving energy capacity, while in 2022, the money provided is already directly for the development of the project.
According to The Drive, the nuclear microreactor will run on tri-structural isotope (TRISO) fuel. The fuel structure is tiny poppy-seed-sized kernels of uranium, carbon, and oxygen encapsulated by layers of carbon- and ceramic-based materials designed to block the emission of radioactive fission products.
Four companies will be involved in developing the nuclear mini-reactor – Westinghouse Government Services, X-energy, LLC, and BWX Technologies, Inc. One of them, X-energy, already has its three-structured isotopic fuel, which is a kind of advantage but not a guarantee. Two companies have already received funding to start a two-year work on the mini-reactor – X-energy and BWX Technologies design. All this means that when the companies present their projects in the coming months, the Pentagon will choose one of the two participants to start work on the prototype.
According to the US military, in addition to the mini-reactor having to be easily transported through various US military missions, its use must be completely safe and environmentally friendly. The future developer of Pele should achieve this goal. De Drive even compares the power of the nuclear mini-reactor with the smallest nuclear power plant in the United States to get a better idea of Pele’s power. I.e., the Ginna nuclear power plant has a capacity of 581 MW, while Pele will operate in the range of 1-5 MW.
The idea of nuclear microreactors is not new. The US military has long found that much of its weapons systems need at least a week of energy systems to be self-sufficient without recharging the batteries. The US Army should easily transport the Pele project to these batteries, and therefore, unofficial information states that the Americans will make it portable by air, water, and land.
Mini-nuclear power plants are generally not new. Russia already has its own floating nuclear power plant that can be used for deployment in the far north. China is also developing the idea of a floating nuclear power plant.
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