Pelé mobile microreactor project moves forward: New Nuclear

April 14, 2022

The U.S. Department of Defense (SCO) Office of Strategic Capabilities announced that it will continue construction of the project and demonstrate a TRISO-powered mobile microreactor prototype at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) site. ). This will be the first Generation IV reactor in the United States.

The prototype will be built at INL (Image: INL)

The SCO’s recently released Record of Decision (ROD) follows the release of a final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the reactor, which was released in February after a public comment period.

The microreactor will be an “intrinsically safe” design capable of being transported by the Department of Defense (DOD) and capable of delivering 1-5 MWe for at least three years of full-power operation. It will be the first electricity-generating Generation IV nuclear reactor built in the United States, the DOD said.

“Advanced nuclear energy has the potential to be a strategic game-changer for the United States, both for the DOD and for the commercial sector,” said Jeff Waksman, program manager for the Pelé project. “For it to be adopted, it must first be demonstrated successfully under real-world operating conditions.”

The Pele Project published a notice of intent to conduct an environmental analysis in March 2020 in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act, simultaneously launching a two-year design competition for the microreactor. BWXT Advanced Technologies and X-energy LLC were then selected to develop the final design of a prototype high-temperature mobile gas reactor using low-enriched uranium (HALEU) tristructural isotropic (TRISO) fuel as part of of the Project Pele initiative. Reactor fuel will be produced at BWXT’s facilities from materials sourced from the Department of Energy’s (DOE) inventory of highly enriched uranium.

“SCO is fully confident that both teams have developed reactor designs that can be built to meet SCO’s minimum technical requirements. However, only one design will be selected and announced later this spring,” the DOD said.

DOD currently uses approximately 30 TWh of electricity per year and more than 10 million gallons of fuel per day, and the planned electrification of the non-tactical vehicle fleet and maturing of future energy-intensive capabilities mean that these needs are likely to increase. A small, safe and transportable nuclear reactor would meet this growing demand with a resilient, carbon-free power source that would not increase its fuel requirements, while supporting critical operations in remote and austere environments, he said. declared.

Project Pelé is described as a whole-of-government effort, drawing on expertise from the DOE, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the US Army Corps of Engineers, NASA and the National Nuclear Security Administration. The reactor must be a unique prototype, which will only be demonstrated in the United States under the supervision of the DOE. The DOD will decide whether or not to transition the technology and use it operationally at a later date, but the reactor could also serve as a “pioneer” for the commercial adoption of these technologies, the DOD said.

“The DOD has a long history of driving American innovation, with nuclear power being one of many prominent examples,” said SCO Director Jay Dryer. “The Pelé project is an exciting opportunity to advance energy resilience and reduce carbon emissions while helping to shape safety and non-proliferation standards for advanced reactors around the world.”

In a separate project, the US Air Force announced plans in 2021 to build its first microreactor at Eielson Air Force Base in Fairbanks, Alaska, to be operational in 2027.

Research and writing by World Nuclear News

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