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No ‘Showstoppers’ to Defense Department’s Using Very Small Nuclear Reactors

Over the last few years, a Defense Science Board task force evaluated energy systems for remote or forward operating bases, and its final report, dated August 2016, was recently made available to the public. The task force’s goal is to replace the diesel generators that serve as the standard electrical power source at these military bases. Alternate energy sources evaluated by the task force included very small modular nuclear reactors (vSMRS). vSMRs are designed to operate at less than 10 megawatts and to fit in a typical shipping container—in comparison to utility-scale reactors, which typically operate at 1,000 megawatts and are not mobile.

The task force concluded that the US military could become the beneficiary of “reliable, abundant, and continuous energy through the deployment of nuclear energy power systems.” And while the task force identified a series of challenges to nuclear power, it did not consider any such challenges to be “showstoppers” in pursuing engineering development and prototyping of vSMR capabilities.

In short, any startup or established nuclear reactor company able to design and prototype vSMRs would appear to have an interested and paying client in the US government.

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About this Author

Alex S. Polonsky, Morgan Lewis Law firm, Energy Attorney

Alex Polonsky is a partner in Morgan Lewis's Energy Practice, focusing on energy and environmental law. His energy practice includes advising on all aspects of U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) licensing and litigation, including license renewal, power uprates, license transfers, decommissioning, enforcement proceedings, and whistleblower investigations. He is also an experienced litigator before the NRC's Atomic Safety and Licensing Boards (ASLBs). Some of the cases he has defended in litigation before ASLBs include the construction application for a mixed-oxide fuel fabrication...