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Small nuclear reactors pushed for military use,despite their obvious dangers

There are concerns, of course, associated with deploying mobile nuclear reactors to bases or the battlefield. Meltdowns, waste products, and other malfunctions are always a concern with nuclear energy technologies, and if a reactor in a contested area is destroyed by adversary forces, for example, the risk of environmental contamination is high. That, in turn, could create a political disaster for the DOD and United States. Deploying any nuclear systems abroad also incurs the risk of proliferation if those technologies should fall into the wrong hands due to a forward-operating base or convoy being overrun by hostile forces.

Those concerns will no doubt be a major policy consideration when, or if, these mobile reactors ever reach a state of technological readiness to where they can be deployed. New nuclear technologies aren’t the only new energy production and storage systems the DOD is eyeing, however. Revolutionary concepts such as space-based solar power beaming, new forms of hydrogen fuel cells, or even more advanced applications of existing technologies like modular solar generators are all being developed which could revolutionize how the DOD powers its expeditionary forces without the risks associated with nuclear power


The Military’s Mobile Nuclear Reactor Prototype Is Set To Begin Taking Shape, The Drive  BY BRETT TINGLEY JUNE 3, 2021

Project Pele is one potentially revolutionary, albeit controversial, answer to the military’s growing battlefield energy requirements.

The Office of The Secretary of Defense (OSD) has requested $60 million dollars for Project Pele, which is aimed at developing a new, transportable nuclear microreactor to provide high-output, resilient power for a wide variety of Department of Defense (DOD) missions. The DOD hopes to begin working on a prototype reactor design, which will hopefully be able to eventually produce one to five megawatts of electricity and operate at peak power for at least three years, in the next fiscal year.

The request for funding for Project Pele is found in the Pentagon’s proposed budget for the 2022 Fiscal Year, which was released on May 28, 2021.   This is the first year that the Office of the Secretary of Defense has asked for money for this program through the larger Advanced Innovative Technologies line item. Previous funding for Pele, also known as the Micro Nuclear Reactor Program, had come through a separate Operational Energy Capability Improvement account in OSD’s budget. 

The budget documents say that the goals for Project Pele in the 2022 Fiscal Year are to “complete the design phase and prepare for construction of a 1-5 Megawatt electric transportable nuclear microreactor.” In addition, it notes that “due to the nature of this project, specific applications and detailed plans are available at a higher classification level.”

“The Pele project continues activities initiated under Congressional direction in FY 2020 and FY 2021,” according to the documents. “Congressional Adds [totaling $16 million in the 2021 Fiscal Year] directed for nuclear fuel core development to support the Pele reactor maturation and also funding to support power and thermal management maturation for directed energy weapons.”

………………the Fiscal Year 2022 budget requests says the desired design is as a 1-5 megawatt (MW) nuclear microreactor. 

For comparison, the output of the smallest nuclear power plant in the United States, New York’s R.E. Ginna Nuclear Power Plant, is 581 MW. The desired power output is even smaller than most research reactors. 

…… The funding for Pele also builds on several other developments, which show that the DOD, DOE, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) are investing heavily in new nuclear technologies to power a new American space age. “Production of a full-scale fourth-generation nuclear reactor will have significant geopolitical implications for the United States,” said Jay Dryer, director of the Strategic Capabilities Office. 

………  Building on that document’s goals, a January 2021 Executive Order expanded on the National Space Council document by ordering NASA to deliver a report that defines requirements and foreseeable issues for developing a nuclear energy system to enable human and robotic space missions for the next two decades. The order also included plans for a “Common Technology Roadmap” made among NASA and the Departments of Energy, Defense, Commerce, and State for developing and deploying these new reactor technologies. 

Energy security and dominance have become cornerstones of DOD strategy, given the unbelievable amounts of fuel and energy consumed by the power-hungry systems the modern military depends on. U.S. Army leadership has previously stated that it wants its brigades to be self-sufficient for a week without the need for resupply, and there have been previous calls for microreactors that could fit inside existing platforms such as the C-17 Globemaster. Meanwhile, Lockheed Martin and other laboratories continue work on the lofty goal of developing miniaturized fusion reactors…….

There are concerns, of course, associated with deploying mobile nuclear reactors to bases or the battlefield. Meltdowns, waste products, and other malfunctions are always a concern with nuclear energy technologies, and if a reactor in a contested area is destroyed by adversary forces, for example, the risk of environmental contamination is high. That, in turn, could create a political disaster for the DOD and United States. Deploying any nuclear systems abroad also incurs the risk of proliferation if those technologies should fall into the wrong hands due to a forward-operating base or convoy being overrun by hostile forces.

Those concerns will no doubt be a major policy consideration when, or if, these mobile reactors ever reach a state of technological readiness to where they can be deployed. New nuclear technologies aren’t the only new energy production and storage systems the DOD is eyeing, however. Revolutionary concepts such as space-based solar power beaming, new forms of hydrogen fuel cells, or even more advanced applications of existing technologies like modular solar generators are all being developed which could revolutionize how the DOD powers its expeditionary forces without the risks associated with nuclear power. https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/40914/the-militarys-mobile-nuclear-reactor-prototype-is-set-to-begin-taking-shape

June 5, 2021 - Posted by | Small Modular Nuclear Reactors, USA, weapons and war

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