Los Alamos National Laboratory

Los Alamos National Laboratory

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Build small nuclear reactors for battlefield power

A solution could be a new micro-nuclear reactor being developed by Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Westinghouse power company.
September 20, 2018
Los Alamos engineers are working on a tiny, steel-encased core regulated by physics, not pumps.

Los Alamos engineers are working on a tiny, steel-encased core regulated by physics, not pumps.

Build small nuclear reactors for battlefield power

by Andy Erickson

There’s not much the U.S. military does that’s more dangerous than trucking fuel through a war zone. In 2009, the Army found that one soldier died for every 24 fuel convoys in Afghanistan. So if a better way could be found to generate electricity at remote bases — that’s what most of the fuel is used for — it could greatly reduce the risks to our military.

A solution could be a new micro-nuclear reactor being developed by Los Alamos National Laboratory and the Westinghouse power company. Built around heat-pipe technology, this inherently safe microreactor has no cooling water or pumps that can fail, uses passive regulation systems so that it cannot melt down, and can generate at least 1 megawatt of safe, reliable power for 10 years or more. A megawatt is enough electricity for roughly a military brigade, some 1,500 to 4,000 soldiers.

This story first appeared in Defense One.