The U.S. defense department’s Idaho National Laboratory will build and test a mobile nuclear power plant, capable of turning out as much as five megawatts of power for up to three years, the department has announced.
The “Project Pele” microreactor will be the first next-generation nuke plant build in the U.S.
Defense installations are power-hungry, so the military is a logical customer for this new version of a portable generator.
However, the military also is a traditional testbed for exotic tech. If the reactor proves successful, it would open the door for several private companies developing similar reactors, which we reported in “Nuclear Power on the Rise” (19 Sep 2018), “A New Path to Clean Nuclear Energy” (13 Oct 2020), and “Reviving Nuclear Power” (27 Oct 2020).
The two companies that have submitted designs for the plant are X-Energy and BWXT Advanced Technologies. The department will choose one of the designs to build.
Both versions offer a gas-cooled reactor, with low-enriched fuel pellets, not the uranium fuel rods associated with meltdowns and explosions, making them easier to move by truck, train, or air.
TRENDPOST: Old-style nuclear power plants that cost hundreds of billions of dollars, take a decade to approve and another decade to build, and leave tons of waste that remains toxic for centuries, belong to the history books.
However, nuclear power itself is enjoying a rebirth as a green (sort of) energy source, with new designs and new fuels, as we detailed in the articles noted above.
The new approaches to nuclear energy will succeed eventually, but will be delayed as they struggle to cast off the specter of the Chernobyl, Fukushima, and Three Mile Island disasters that nearly killed the nuclear power industry.