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Wednesday, April 21st, 2021

DOD advances nuclear microreactor prototype design process

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Department of Defense (DOD) officials have proceeded with transportable advanced nuclear microreactor prototype design initiatives through two contract options.

Teams led by BWXT Advanced Technologies, LLC, of Lynchburg, Va., and X-energy, LLC, of Greenbelt, Md., were selected from a preliminary design competition. They will continue development independently under a Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO) initiative called Project Pele.

“We are thrilled with the progress our industrial partners have made on their designs,” Jeff Waksman, Project Pele program manager, said. “We are confident that by early 2022 we will have two engineering designs matured to a sufficient state that we will be able to determine suitability for possible construction and testing.”

Project Pele is a fourth-generation nuclear reactor, which, post-prototype, could serve as a pathfinder for commercial adoption of varied technologies, reducing the nation’s carbon emissions footprint while providing new tools for disaster relief and critical infrastructure support.

DOD uses approximately 30 Terawatt-hours of electricity per year and more than 10 million gallons of fuel per day. The levels are only expected to increase in the wake of anticipated electrification of the vehicle fleet and maturation of future energy-intensive capabilities.

“Production of a full-scale Fourth Generation nuclear reactor will have significant geopolitical implications for the United States,” SCO Director Jay Dryer said. “The DOD has led American innovation many times in the past, and with Project Pele, has the opportunity to help us advance on both energy resiliency and carbon emission reductions.”

The DOD maintains that a small, transportable nuclear reactor would address growing demand with a carbon-free energy source not adding to the DOD’s fuel needs while supporting mission-critical operations in remote environments.