The microreactor pilot programme was initiated in response to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 requirement to identify potential locations to site, construct, and operate a microreactor by the end of 2027.
The government is considering a power purchase agreement contract for a period of up to 30 years for a microreactor that would be commercially owned and operated and licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the nation’s nuclear regulator.
The Air Force said it is always searching for new options for future energy assurance initiatives that support critical missions. A pilot plant is needed to determine the viability of micro-reactor use at Air Force installations.
The microreactor technology for the pilot is expected to produce 1-5 MW of energy to supplement current installation energy sources. It would offer “energy resilience” without additional dependence on fossil fuels.
“This technology has the potential to provide true energy assurance, and the existing energy infrastructure and compatible climate at Eielson make for the perfect location to validate its feasibility,” said deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for environment, safety, and infrastructure Mark Correll.
“Energy is a critical asset to ensure mission continuity at our installations,” he said. “Microreactors are a promising technology for ensuring energy resilience and reliability, and are particularly well-suited for powering and heating remote domestic military bases like Eielson.”
The Eielson microreactor will be stationary, but mobile microreactors are also being developed. A May 2019 study concluded that mobile microreactors can support armed forces deployment and meet power demands in developed areas such as Europe and “immature theatres” of conflict in lesser developed areas.
The study said a microreactor could deliver one to 10 MW or so of electrical power for years without refuelling, in a size small enough to be transported by road and air.
In March 2020 the US Department of Defense issued three contracts for companies to start design work on mobile microreactors as part of a plan towards achieving nuclear power for US forces at home and abroad.