The US Department of Defense has awarded three multimillion-dollar contracts as it embarks on a two-year design competition to bring mobile nuclear microreactors to US military troops in an effort to keep up with nuclear developments made by Russia and China.
A total of $39.7 million in contracts was split between three companies on Monday by the Pentagon, initiating a two-step plan to bring nuclear power to US forces in a variety of conditions.
The nuclear power effort comes as part of Project Pele, a “mobile microreactor program using a two-phased approach to mitigate project and technical risk” that is headed by the Department of Defense’s Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO).
Pentagon spokesperson Lt. Col. Robert Carver told Defense News that Project Pele “involves the development of a safe, mobile and advanced nuclear microreactor to support a variety of Department of Defense missions such as generating power for remote operating bases.”
He explained that the three companies will be given a “two-year design-maturation period” before the Pentagon chooses which company will develop and demonstrate a prototype.
Dr. Jeff Waksman, program manager of Project Pele, was also quoted in the release and said that the Project Pele is unique due to the “reactor’s mobility and safety.”
“We will leverage our industry partners to develop a system that can be safely and rapidly moved by road, rail, sea or air and for quick set up and shut down, with a design which is inherently safe,” he noted.
According to the Department of Defense’s current estimates, the Pentagon uses “30 terrawatt hours of electricity per year and more than 10 million gallons of fuel per day.”
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