Friday, January 25, 2019

"The U.S. Military Wants Tiny Road Mobile Nuclear Reactors That Can Fit In A C-17"

From The Drive's Warzone column:
The U.S. military’s secretive Strategic Capabilities Office, or SCO, is asking for potential vendors to submit proposals for small mobile nuclear reactors to help meet ever-growing demands for power during operations in remote and austere locations. This request for information comes as the U.S. Army, in particular, is looking to extend the amount of time its units can operate independent of established supply chains, but portable nuclear power could introduce new risks to the battlefield.
SCO first announced that they were looking for “information on innovative technologies and approaches” relating to a possible future “small mobile nuclear reactor prototype design” on FedBizOpps, the U.S. government’s main contracting website, on Jan. 18, 2019. The organization posted an amended version of the notice, which outlines a “multi-phase prototype project” as part of what it is calling Project Dithulium, four days later.
“Energy usage during contingency operations will likely increase significantly over the next few decades,” the latest version of the request for information explains. “The modern operational space has amplified the need for alternative energy sources to enable mobility in forward land based and maritime military operations.”

SCO basic requirements envision a reactor that can generate between one and 10 megawatts of energy, less than the average output for even a small research reactor, and weigh less than 40 tons. The final design would need to be portable by semi-trailer truck, ship, or a U.S. Air Force C-17A Globemaster III cargo plane.
The goal is to develop a system that personnel can set up in three days or less and shut down and pack up in less than a week. The reactor itself would remain functional for at least three years without needing new fuel.

SCO is hoping to consider up to three designs under the first phase of the project, which would be an in-depth design study that would last between nine and 12 months. The plan is to then down select to a single design for Phase II, in which the winning contractor would build and demonstrate their prototype reactor.

There are a number of potential concepts already in various stages of development that could meet SCO’s requirements. The U.S. Department of Energy’s own Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), in cooperation with the Westinghouse power company, has been working on one design called MegaPower for some time now. Westinghouse is separately working on its own eVinci micro reactor design.

The MegaPower reactor can generate at least one megawatt of power for up to 10 years and meets the SCO’s demands for how long it takes to set up and tear down. More importantly, the design uses what are known as “heat pipes” to both keep the system cool and generate power, eliminating the need for complex and potentially hazardous water-cooling arrangements. The video below describes how this arrangement works in more detail....MORE
Previously in Mini-nukes:
August 2013 
A Portable Nuclear Reactor Cost Competitive wth Natural Gas
We've looked at Gen4 Energy, Inc (formerly Hyperion Power) and their trailer-sized nukes which the Department of Energy recently funded for research at Savannah River.
Here's another of the Small Modular Reactor competitors, via MIT's Technology Review:...
July 2012
Ohio's FirstEnergy and Babcock & Wilcox to Test Modular Nuclear Reactors (FE; BW)
 November 2010 
Lloyds List, Hyperion Power, Enterprise Shipping to Explore Nuclear Propulsion for Commercial Shipping
September 2010
Hyperion to Build Demonstration Nuke the Size of two Hot Tubs for DOE Savannah River Site