Project Pele will “nurture” a second microreactor: X-energy’s Xe-Mobile

September 14, 2023, 3:06PMNuclear News

The Department of Defense announced on September 13 that it has awarded a contract option to X-energy for the “enhanced engineering design” of a microreactor that could serve as the transportable power source envisioned by the Strategic Capabilities Office’s (SCO) Project Pele. The DOD expects the award for one year of work to “allow a thorough analysis of design options,” resulting in a preliminary engineering design and “initiation of a regulatory preapplication process.”

Project Pele in context: An update on the DOD’s microreactor plans

August 28, 2023, 9:30AMNuclear News

Deploying microreactor technology for military applications could have huge impacts on logistics and reliability for the military of the future, and on the commercial use of similar technologies. That’s why the Department of Defense is developing Project Pele—a high-temperature, gas-cooled and TRISO-fueled microreactor, transportable within mobile shipping containers—for testing at Idaho National Laboratory in 2025.

Project Rover: The original nuclear-powered rocket program

January 12, 2023, 3:02PMNuclear News
A diagram from the January 1963 story depicting a nuclear-powered rocket.

It’s Thursday, meaning it’s time to dig through the Nuclear News archives for another #ThrowbackThursday post. Today’s story goes back 60 years to the January 1963 issue of NN and the cover story “Review of Rover: A nuclear rocket” (p. 9), which reviews the first phase of the nuclear rocket program from Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Some quick digging online uncovers a lot of information about Project Rover, most notably, a short 20-minute film on the LANL YouTube page that reviews the project (Historic 1960s Film Describes Project Rover). The description of the video notes that the project was active from 1955 to 1973 and led to the design of multiple reactors suitable for testing, including Pewee 1, and that NASA has a modern nuclear thermal propulsion project based on the Pewee design. So it seems fitting to revisit Project Rover, given that there is today a lot of renewed interest in nuclear propulsion for space exploration.

The opening line from the January 1963 article seems to ring true today— “Provided the U. S. continues her space efforts, nuclear-powered rockets are inevitable”—although that probably didn’t seem likely to the nuclear community after the country’s attention shifted from the Space Race to the Vietnam War in the early 1970s when Project Rover was canceled. The introduction to the article lays out the argument for a nuclear-powered rocket and provides a review of the program since its launch in 1955.

The full article as it appeared in 1963 is reprinted below, but don’t forget, all ANS members have full access to the Nuclear News archives that has decades of great content about all topics on nuclear science and technology. Happy reading!

Looking back at 2022—April through June

January 4, 2023, 12:00PMNuclear News

Another calendar year has passed. Before heading too far into 2023, let’s look back at what happened in 2022 for the American Nuclear Society and the nuclear community. In today's post that follows, we have compiled from Nuclear News and Nuclear Newswire what we feel are the top nuclear news stories from April through June 2022.

Stay tuned this week for the top stories from the rest of the past year.

But first:

Air Force pilot program to enlist microreactor for 20-year Alaskan deployment

October 5, 2022, 12:01PMNuclear News
Aircraft line the runway at Eielson AFB in December 2020. (Photo: U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Keith Holcomb)

The Department of the Air Force and the Defense Logistics Agency–Energy have released a request for proposals (RFP) for the construction and operation of a microreactor in central Alaska. The Department of Defense wants a 20-year supply of electricity and steam from a 1–5-MW microreactor, but the Eielson Air Force Base (AFB) Microreactor Pilot Program will go beyond a simple power purchase agreement and put the reactor through its paces with tests, at least annually, of the reactor’s walk-away safety and black-start capabilities. The final RFP is available at sam.gov.

BWXT wins Project Pele contract to supply U.S.'s first microreactor

June 9, 2022, 12:00PMNuclear News
Artist’s rendering of BWXT’s Project Pele transportable reactor modules arriving for set up and operation. (Image: BWXT)

BWX Technologies, Inc., will deliver the first microreactor in the United States under a contract awarded by the U.S. Department of Defense Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO), the company announced today. BWXT will have two years to build a transportable microreactor prototype to the SCO’s Project Pele specifications and deliver it to Idaho National Laboratory for testing under a cost-type contract valued at about $300 million.

DOD to move ahead with Project Pele

April 18, 2022, 12:00PMNuclear News
The Project Pele microreactor will be fueled by TRISO fuel particles like those shown here. (Photo: INL)

The Department of Defense’s Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO) on April 13 released a record of decision (ROD) for Project Pele, a program intended to design and build a mobile microreactor at Idaho National Laboratory. The ROD for Project Pele is based on a final environmental impact statement (EIS) published in February. The designs submitted by the two candidate vendors—BWXT Advanced Technologies and X-energy—both fit the parameters analyzed in the final EIS.

Final EIS for Project Pele microreactor available

February 25, 2022, 12:00PMNuclear News
An illustration of a potential mobile microreactor site at Test Pad D in INL’s Critical Infrastructure Test Range Complex for the grid operation phase of Project Pele. (Image: DOD)

The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) is looking to reduce its reliance on local electric grids and diesel-fueled generators at military installations. Project Pele is designed to demonstrate the technical and safety features of mobile microreactors capable of generating up to 5 MWe.

Save the VTR!

December 1, 2021, 9:30AMANS Nuclear Cafe
Artist's rendition of the Versatile Test Reactor. (Source: DOE)

Microreactor planned for U.S. Air Force base in Alaska

October 25, 2021, 7:01AMNuclear News
An F-35A Lightning II takes off from Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska on July 1, 2021. (Photo: U.S. Air Force/Airman 1st Class Jose Miguel T. Tamondong)

The Department of the Air Force has selected Eielson Air Force Base as the site of a stationary microreactor that “will provide the installation with a clean, reliable, and resilient nuclear energy supply technology for critical national security infrastructure,” the department announced on October 15.

Draft EIS released for Project Pele mobile microreactor demo at INL

September 17, 2021, 9:37AMNuclear News

Plans to test a prototype mobile microreactor designed to military requirements moved ahead when the Department of Defense (DOD), acting through its Strategic Capabilities Office and with the Department of Energy serving as a cooperating agency, on September 16 announced the availability of a draft environmental impact statement for the construction and demonstration phase of Project Pele.

Could Hawaii get its clean energy from nuclear?

August 11, 2021, 6:03AMANS Nuclear Cafe
A satellite image of Hawaii. Image: NASA

Jacob Wiencek, a self-described concerned resident of Honolulu, is doing his part to encourage the state of Hawaii to embrace nuclear power. An opinion piece written by Wiencek was published in Honolulu Civil Beat, an online, nonprofit news site, on August 4.

DOD narrows field of Project Pele microreactor contenders

March 25, 2021, 9:29AMNuclear News

After funding one year of microreactor engineering design work by three teams, the Department of Defense (DOD) announced on March 22 that it has exercised contract options for two of those teams—led by BWXT Advanced Technologies and X-energy—to proceed with development of a final design for a transportable microreactor. Following a final design review in early 2022 and the completion of environmental analysis, one of the two companies may be selected to build a prototype reactor during a 24-­month construction and demonstration phase.

“We are thrilled with the progress our industrial partners have made on their designs,” said Jeff Waksman, Project Pele program manager. “We are confident that by early 2022 we will have two engineering designs matured to a sufficient state that we will be able to determine suitability for possible construction and testing.”