U.S. Army Eye Prototype Mobile Reactor in Idaho | WGN Radio 720

Boise, Idaho (AP) —The US Department of Defense has commented on plans to build a prototype of an advanced mobile nuclear microreactor at the Idaho National Laboratory in eastern Idaho.

The department began a 45-day commentary period on Friday and released a draft environmental impact assessment to evaluate alternatives for building and operating microreactors capable of producing 1-5 megawatts of electricity. The ministry’s energy demand is expected to increase, the ministry said.

“Safe and compact portable reactors meet this growing demand with elastic carbon-free energy sources that do not increase the Pentagon’s fuel demand, while at the same time mission-critical operations in remote areas and harsh environments. We support, “said the Pentagon. ..

The draft Environmental Impact Statement cites President Joe Biden’s January 27 Executive Order, which prioritizes climate change considerations in national security, as another reason for pursuing microreactors. According to the draft document, alternative energy sources such as wind and solar are problematic because they are limited by location, weather, and available land area and require redundant power supplies.

According to the ministry, it uses 30 terawatt-hours of electricity annually and more than 10 million gallons (37.9 million liters) of fuel per day. According to the agency, using diesel generators to power the base will put a strain on operations and planning, and needs will increase during the transition to electrical and non-tactical vehicles. 30 terawatt hours is more energy than many small countries use in a year.

The Draft Environmental Impact Statement section on page 314 states that it wants to reduce its reliance on power networks in areas that are highly vulnerable to long-term outages due to natural disasters, cyberattacks, domestic terrorism, and failures due to lack of maintenance.

The agency also said new technologies such as drones and radar systems will increase energy demand.

However, critics say that such microreactors can be targeted by themselves, even in transit. Edwin Lyman, director of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Nuclear Safety, a non-profit organization, said he questioned the use of microreactors at military bases at home and abroad.

“In my view, these reactors are more likely to pose logistical problems and risks to the military and property than to solve the problems,” he said. “And deploying nuclear reactors in war theaters, especially in potential combat situations and foreign operational bases, unless the military is willing to spend what it needs to make them safe to use. I think it’s probably unwise without providing the protection they would do. “

He said reactors are likely to become vulnerable in transit.

“There are always ways in which an enemy can damage a reactor and cause its nuclear contents to spread,” he said.

The Idaho National Laboratory is located on 890 square miles (2,305 square kilometers) of the US Department of Energy in the high desert sagebrush grasslands, about 50 miles (80 km) west of Idaho Falls. All prototype reactor tests are conducted at the Department of Energy site.

The institute is considered one of the country’s leading nuclear laboratories and has several facilities to assist in the construction and testing of microreactors.

The Pentagon said a final environmental impact statement and a decision on how or not to move forward are scheduled for early 2022.

If approved, it will take approximately three years to build and test the microreactor after preparing the test site at the Idaho National Laboratory.

Designs for two mobile microreactors are under consideration, but the agency said no detailed explanation is available as both are in the early stages of development. Both designs are high-temperature gas-cooled reactors fueled by enriched uranium, according to the agency.

The type of enriched uranium used can withstand high temperatures and “allows reactor designs that rely primarily on simple passive functions and inherent physics to ensure safety,” draft environmental impact statement. Says.

Mobile reactor construction and fuel production will take place outside of Idaho and will be sent to the Idaho National Laboratory, where final assembly, fuel loading and demonstration of the reactor’s operational capabilities will take place.

The demonstration includes a start-up test, a move of the reactor to a new site, and a test at a second location. The second location mimics the real situation by testing the capacity of the reactor to meet energy demand.

The department said the microreactor can generate electricity within 3 days of delivery and can be safely removed in just 7 days.

U.S. Army Eye Prototype Mobile Reactor in Idaho | WGN Radio 720

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