The Department of Defense (DoD) has awarded BWX Technologies a $300 million contract to build the prototype for the first mobile nuclear microreactor built in the United States, dubbed Project Pele. the company announced June 9th.
The microreactor should be able to generate between 1 and 5 megawatts of electrical power. BWX expects to complete the full-scale Project Pele prototype in 2024, and the prototype will then be tested at the Idaho National Laboratory.
“We are committed to designing, building and testing new nuclear technology to protect the environment while providing energy, and we are excited about this competitive tender after years of hard work by our design and engineering teams,” said BWXT Advanced Technologies President Joe Miller said in the announcement. “The entire nuclear industry recognizes that advanced reactors are an important step forward to meet growing energy demands and the need for significant reductions in CO2 emissions.”
The award comes just under two months after the Department of Defense released the final statement of economic impact (EIS) for Project Pele and proposed testing to proceed. The goal of the project is to reduce the Department of Defense’s dependence on local power grids and diesel generators.
The contract is valued at $300 million and is expected to support more than 120 employees working on the project. Jeff Waksman, program manager for Project Pele in the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s Office of Strategic Capabilities, resolved on LinkedIn that the microreactor itself is unlikely to cost $300 million to build. Waksman said the funding will also cover design completion, modeling and experimentation “to answer regulatory questions” and building new manufacturing capacity.
“Advanced nuclear power has the potential to be a strategic game changer for the United States, both for the Department of Defense and for the commercial sector,” Waksman said upon release of the final EIS. “In order for it to be adopted, it must first be successfully demonstrated under real operating conditions.”
BWX said it will build the Project Pele prototype with a transportable, modular design designed to be shipped in compliant containers and easily assembled on site within 72 hours. According to BWX, “The transportable reactor core and associated control system is designed to maintain safety under all conditions, including transient conditions throughout transport. The fuel has been tested and verified at temperatures well above the operating conditions of the reactor.”