BWXT and X-Energy selected to develop Project Pele mobile microreactor

24 March 2021

The Strategic Capabilities Office of the US Department of Defense (DOD) has selected BWXT Advanced Technologies and X-energy LLC to develop a final design for a prototype mobile microreactor under the Project Pele initiative.

(Image: Angelique Johnson/Pixabay)

The two teams have been selected through a preliminary design competition which began in April 2019. Three companies - BWX Technologies, Westinghouse Government Services and X-energy - were selected last year to begin preliminary design work for a prototype reactor. One of the remaining two companies may be selected to build and demonstrate a prototype after a final design review early next year, and the completion of an environmental analysis under the US National Environmental Protection Act, DOD said.

Jeff Waksman, Project Pele programme manager, said: "We are confident that by early 2022 we will have two engineering designs matured to a sufficient state that we will be able to determine suitability for possible construction and testing."

The DOD uses about 30 TWh of electricity per year and more than 10 million gallons of fuel per day, and these are expected to increase due to anticipated electrification of the vehicle fleet and maturation of future energy-intensive capabilities, DOD said. A safe, small, transportable nuclear reactor could meet this demand with a resilient, carbon-free energy source that does not add to DOD's fuel needs, while supporting mission-critical operations in remote and austere environments, it said.

The prototype fourth-generation reactor will use TRISO (TRIstructural-ISOtropic) fuel to deliver 1-5 MWe of electrical power for at least three years of operation at full power. To enable rapid transport and use, it will be designed to operate within three days of delivery and to be safely removed in as few as seven days. Once prototyped, the Project Pele reactor could serve as a "pathfinder for commercial adoption" of such technologies, and could also be used in disaster relief and critical infrastructure support, DOD said.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News