US Military Eyes Tiny Nuclear Reactors for Deployed Troops
The U.S. military is funding research towards small, mobile nuclear power stations for forward operating bases. The military has been conducting research on small nuclear reactors since the 1950s, but funding has come and gone during periods of sequestration. Now, with the immense energy requirements and logistical difficulties in securing millions of gallons of fuel, the research is back on track. Dubbed “Project Dilithium,” the Pentagon seeks a nuclear reactor that can be transported by truck (and C-17 air transport) and that can generate 1-10 megawatts of power for three years between refueling. It must also be constructed for easy setup, requiring a setup time of only 72 hours and a pack up time of one week. NASA has used similar generators to power spacecraft and satellites, and the USSR also used smaller reactors for projects such as Arctic lighthouses. In the Army’s study on the subject, it concludes that the use of small nuclear reactors serve as “a classic example of disruptive innovation,” and that “the return of nuclear power to the Army and DOD will have a significant impact on the Army, our allies, and the international community, commercial power industry, and the nation…while providing a deployable, reliable, and sustainable option for reducing petroleum demand and focusing feel forward to support Combatant Commander priorities and maneuver in multi-domain operations.” The micro reactors currently being researched and tested are an estimated 5-years from deployment readiness.