As the U.S. military looks for ways to secure its energy requirements in the near future, it has now taken a significant step in this direction by selecting a site for its first micro-nuclear reactor. The Department of Air Force has selected the Eielson Air Force Base (AFB) in Alaska to pilot this next-generation energy capability, a press release said.
With increasing reliance on electronics in warfare, the U.S. military's power needs have ballooned over the years and are expected to surge further. However, with an aim to rein in carbon emissions even in matters of national security, the Department of Defense is now turning to nuclear energy as a "cleaner" and reliable source. Last month, we reported that the Department of Defense was moving ahead with plans of installing a portable nuclear reactor in Idaho.
The press release also goes on to state that the micro-reactor pilot is being built in response to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2019 that requires potential locations to be identified to build and operate a microreactor before 2027. The Air Force will work with the Department of Energy, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to facilitate the micro-reactor pilot, and to ensure this pilot is conducted with safety as the number one priority, the press release said. Licensed by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the micro-reactor will be owned and operated commercially.
“Micro-reactors 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 AFB,” said Mark Correll, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Environment, Safety, and Infrastructure.
Eielson AFB, located just 110 miles south of the Arctic Circle, relies on a coal-based power plant for its energy needs. As temperatures drop 50 degrees below zero, two locomotives at the AFB move up to 1000 tons of coal every day to the power plant in the coldest months of the year, an older press release states.
However, it is not just heating problems that nuclear reactors are expected to resolve on Earth. Portable nuclear power plants are also being looked up to push propulsion in space and power human settlements on faraway planets such as Mars.