US Air Force issues RFP for microreactor project

28 September 2022

The US Department of the Air Force, in partnership with the Defense Logistics Agency Energy, has issued a request for proposal (RFP) for a microreactor to be built at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska.

Aircraft at Eielson, pictured in December 2020 (Image: US Air Force/Keith Holcomb)

According to documents accompanying the RFP, which is available via the website, the US government intends to award a firm-fixed price contract for the construction, provision, testing, operation, management, maintenance, and eventual removal of a "nuclear microreactor energy production facility", or EPF, to deliver electricity and steam on the base. The contract will be funded using annual appropriations and the contract term may not exceed 30 years, consisting of periods for construction, testing, energy production and delivery, and EPF removal.

The EPF will be owned and operated by the contractor, and the US Government will purchase its energy output via a long-term contract under a firm-fixed price. The system must be able to produce electricity and steam and to meet a baseload electricity demand of 5 MWe.

The office of the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Energy, Installations, and Environment (SAF/IE) - a civilian office in the United States Department of the Air Force - said the RFP was an important first step towards developing "the next-generation energy technology needed for energy resilience at Eielson Air Force Base and to inform future initiatives to power national security infrastructure".

"The release of the RFP for the Eielson AFB microreactor is a critical next step in furthering the development and deployment of reliable and clean energy technology at Department of the Air Force installations," Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Environment, Safety and Infrastructure Nancy Balkus said. "This programme is extremely important to mission assurance and sustainment in the face of climate change and continued national defence threats, and demonstrates the department's commitment to ensuring our installations have a safe, reliable supply of energy, no matter their location."

SAF/IE's provisional timeline for the project anticipates vendor selection in 2023, with permitting and licensing beginning the same year. Construction would begin in 2025, with "commercial operation" in 2027. The reactor will be licensed by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

The ability to operate independently from the commercial grid and reduce greenhouse gas emissions make microreactors a promising power source for remote domestic military installations critical to the national security infrastructure, SAF/IE said.

In a separate project - Project Pele - the US Department of Defense Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO) is building a TRISO-fuelled prototype mobile microreactor at Idaho National Laboratory. The SCO in June awarded BWXT a contract to complete and deliver the reactor in 2024.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News