Oklo unit tentatively picked to power Air Force base in Alaska

August 31, 2023, 3:11PMNuclear News
Concept art of Oklo's Aurora Powerhouse plant. (Image: Gensler)

The Defense Logistics Agency Energy (DLA Energy) has selected Oklo Inc. as the pending contractor awardee to site a microreactor at Alaska’s Eielson Air Force Base, the advanced reactor firm announced this morning. Eielson is located on 63,195 acres in central Alaska, 26 miles southeast of Fairbanks.

Should Oklo receive the contract, it will have the opportunity to design, construct, own, and operate its proposed microreactor, dubbed Aurora, to provide both power and heat to the base as part of the U.S. Air Force’s microreactor pilot program.

Aurora is a 1.5-MWe compact fast spectrum microreactor that would use heat pipes to transport heat from the reactor core to a supercritical carbon dioxide power conversion system to generate electricity.

“We are honored to be at the forefront of increasing resilience and reducing emissions, while driving national security forward,” said Jacob DeWitte, Oklo’s cofounder and chief executive officer, in the company’s announcement.

Background: The microreactor pilot program was initiated in response to the fiscal year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, which required the Department of Defense to identify potential military locations to site, construct, and operate a microreactor.

In October 2021, the air force selected Eielson as the site of a stationary microreactor to “provide the installation with a clean, reliable, and resilient nuclear energy supply technology for critical national security infrastructure.”

The air force and DLA Energy released a request for proposals for the construction and operation of the microreactor in September 2022.

Also in September of last year, some eight months after the Nuclear Regulatory Commission denied Oklo’s license application to build and operate its initial Aurora demonstration unit in Idaho, the California-based company returned to the regulatory fray, announcing that it had submitted a licensing project plan to the NRC outlining its proposed engagement to support future Aurora licensing activities.

In case you missed it: Earlier this week, Oklo and Centrus Energy announced a new memorandum of understanding to support the deployment of Oklo’s Aurora near the Piketon, Ohio, site where Centrus plans to operate a high-assay, low-enriched uranium (HALEU) enrichment demonstration under contract to the Department of Energy by the end of the year.

Oklo and Centrus began a partnership in 2021 by signing a letter of intent to cooperate on developing a HALEU fuel facility. The new MOU lays out a range of reciprocal collaboration programs.

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