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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.

Copyright © 2023 by Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP. All Rights Reserved.National Law Review, Volume VII, Number 53

About this Author

Alex Polonsky, Energy and environmental attorney, Morgan Lewis

Alex Polonsky concentrates his energy and environmental practice on matters ranging from nuclear industry licensing, litigation, and investigations, to radiation toxic tort and Superfund litigation. He is a nationally-known resource and frequent speaker at conferences on nuclear export–related matters, including 10 CFR Part 810. As the firm’s facility security officer with a top-secret security clearance, Alex also supports investigations and litigation involving classified information. Alex’s prior career as an environmental consultant allows him to advocate effectively...