Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

Mobile nuclear reactors? Scathing report slams ‘disturbing’ military program

Mobile nuclear reactors? Scathing report slams ‘disturbing’ military program, Times, 1 May 21, Todd South The author of an academic report on Pentagon plans to build mobile nuclear reactors to power future combat bases called the effort “extremely disturbing” and “based on a lie.”

The report released Thursday slams the Pentagon and Army G-4, logistics — specifically the Army office’s 2018 report that lays out the potential uses and needs for such mobile nuclear reactors in future operations.

Alan J. Kuperman wrote the 21-page report titled, “Proposed U.S. Army Mobile Nuclear Reactors: Costs and Risks Outweigh Benefits,” in his role as coordinator of the University of Texas at Austin’s Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Project.

“They don’t reduce casualties, they increase costs and they increase threats to the lives of U.S. service members,” Kuperman said.

The program, known as “Project Pele,” is prototyping the mobile advanced microreactor concept under the Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office……..

The DoD spokesman pointed out that the project is part of a collaboration involving the Department of Energy, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and private industry. Project Pele is not being designed for a specific military service branch but does include experts across defense for a variety of requirements.

Army officials for G-4 deferred comment on the program to DoD……..

Congress approved funding for prototype reactors and the Army awarded $40 million in contracts to three nuclear reactor companies in March 2020 for Project Pele, according to the NPPP report.

Kuperman struck at the Army’s rationale, calling the project unnecessary and dangerous. He counters some of the main justifications that have been provided by DoD and Army reports:


  • High cost
     – Kuperman said the Army’s claims that nuclear power can provide cheaper electricity for powering future forward bases is “based on unrealistic assumptions.” Those include that such a reactor would have low construction costs and operate for 18 hours a day over 40 years. The more likely scenario is a mobile reactor would run for half that time over about 10 years, meaning nuclear electricity could cost 16 times more than estimates and still seven times more than diesel-generated power.
  • Vulnerability to missile attacks – The report points to the 2020 missile attack on forces at al-Asad air base in Iraq. Even with warnings hours ahead of time, more than 100 U.S. personnel suffered traumatic brain injury from the 11 strikes that hit the facility. And the missiles were 10 times more accurate than the Army has predicted in its report on the vulnerability of reactors to precision strikes. The service admits that a direct hit on a reactor would destroy the device. Kuperman notes that even the Army’s plans to protect the reactors, by burying them underground, could inadvertently cause meltdowns by impeding air cooling and causing overheating. A similar strike on an similar such future base with a reactor could cause far more devastating consequences.

  • Captured reactors 
    – Should a U.S. base housing a mobile reactor be overrun or abandoned, the radioactive waste from the reactor could be used in “dirty bomb” terror attacks.
  • No mission for reactors – One of the chief purposes of pursing such reactor programs was to reduce casualties from diesel transport to remote bases. But Defense Department data shows a dramatic drop in casualties of five per 1 million gallons of fuel delivered in 2005 to nearly zero by 2013.
  • High-energy weapons don’t need reactors – Kuperman states that the justification that future high-energy or laser weapons that the Army hopes to have protecting bases don’t require a reactor to power. “A high energy weapon would have to be fired millions of times to justify a reactor,” Kuperman said. “In reality such a weapon would be fired perhaps hundreds of times in its lifetime.”
  • Transport problems – The Army wants to air deliver these reactors to combat posts. Kuperman questions the “regulatory nightmare” that would create. The program calls for initial tests flying the reactors domestically to run then returning them, and their radioactive waste, to another domestic location. Foreign transport would require approval of countries airspace traversed and the approval of a host nation where the reactor would be placed, he said. Other Army recommendations include truck or rail transport domestically and either ship or over-the-ocean flights to friendly ports to then move the reactors again via truck or rail.

  • Army Times
     reported on the proposed program in 2019, which had drawn backlash from the Union of Concerned Scientists and its then-director of the Nuclear Safety Project, Edwin Lyman, who called the proposal, “naïve.”The original proposal, approved by the Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office asked for industry solutions in January 2019 on providing a less than 40-ton small, mobile nuclear reactor design that could operate for three years or more and provide 1 to 10 megawatts of power.Planners want the reactor to fit inside a C-17 cargo plane for air transport to theater. More recent moves have reduced the power output to 5 megawatts……..

Lyman notes a major failure with one of the original eight designs in 1961 when a core meltdown and explosion of the ML-1 reactor in Idaho killed three operators.

The three deployed to Antarctica, Greenland and Alaska proved “unreliable and expensive to operate,” Lyman wrote in his response to the Army’s 2018 report on the mobile reactor program.Lyman told Army Times on Thursday that a number of those old reactors required decades of decommissioning and one used at Fort Belvoir, Va., near Washington D.C. is finally scheduled for decommissioning in late 2021……….. https://www.armytimes.com/news/your-army/2021/04/30/mobile-nuclear-reactors-scathing-report-slams-disturbing-military-program/

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May 1, 2021 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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