USAF to install micro-nuclear reactor at Eielson AFB by 2027

The USAF has commissioned Oklo Inc. to design, install, and operate one of its micro-nuclear reactors at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska.
Christopher McFadden
An F-16 from the 18th Aggressor Squadron flyinh over Eielson AFB, Alaska, circa September 2009.

United States Air Force/Wikimedia Commons 

Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska is to get its very own micro-nuclear reactor very soon, the United States Air Force (USAF) reports. To this end, the USAF has published a Notice of Intent to Award a contract to Oklo Inc., which will design, construct, own, and operate the reactor under the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) supervision. The notice initiates the acquisition process to potentially award the vendor a 30-year, firm-fixed-price contract after obtaining an NRC license.

If the reactor is successful, it could lead to other Air Force bases using modular miniature reactors as a backup power source. This would reduce their dependence on civilian energy grids and improve the overall resilience of air bases.

Future is nuclear

“The Department of the Air Force announcement today demonstrates how the Department of Defense continues to invest in facilitating U.S.-developed technology that provides mission assurance and advances our national interests in Alaska and the homeland,” said Brendan Owens, assistant secretary of Defense for Energy, Installations, and Environment.” We are watching this project closely and working with the other military departments to identify additional installations where deployment of U.S.-developed advanced nuclear technology will improve power reliability and installation resilience," he added.

Micro-reactors are compact nuclear reactors that generate clean energy and come with safety features that automatically adapt to varying conditions and requirements, ensuring they don't overheat. The technology's capability to work independently of the power grid and lower carbon emissions make micro-reactors an encouraging energy source for crucial national security infrastructure.

“Today is a historic first for the Air Force, the state of Alaska, and the nation. Safe, reliable, clean energy using micro-reactor technology will be an integral part of Air Force installations in the future. The best part of this innovation is that we are coming together at the beginning to demonstrate this capability—partnering with key regulatory authorities, state, and local communities to ensure we get this right and do it safely,” said Dr. Ravi Chaudhary, assistant secretary of the Air Force for Energy, Installations, and Environment. “It’s a huge team effort. By seizing the initiative on this critical technology today, we are laying the foundation for American competitiveness in energy for years to come," he added.

As changing environmental conditions become apparent, the Department recognizes the need to secure energy infrastructure, supply chains, and logistics to ensure mission resilience and resource availability.

“Our partnerships with Oklo Inc., Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Department of Energy, Alaska stakeholders, and Tribal Nations are imperative to a successful pilot and future implementation scalability of this transformational technology,” said Nancy Balkus, deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for Environment, Safety, and Infrastructure.

Online by 2027

The micro-reactor is expected to be operational by the end of 2027 as directed by the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019.

Eielson (AFB) is eager to welcome this cutting-edge technology onto the base. The NOITA to Oklo Inc. reinforces our commitment to innovation in order to protect and defend the nation with even greater efficiency and effectiveness,” said Colonel Paul P. Townsend, 354th Fighter Wing commander at Eielson AFB.

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