DOD awards X-energy contract for second micro nuclear reactor design

By Georgina DiNardo / September 13, 2023 at 1:17 PM

The Defense Department has awarded Rockville, MD-based X-energy a contract to develop an enhanced engineering design for a transportable micro nuclear reactor in an effort to inject competition into the Project Pele initiative being run by the Strategic Capabilities Office.

Project Pele has been an ongoing DOD initiative to address the growing demand for a safe and portable nuclear reactor.

In 2022, SCO chose Lynchburg, VA-based BWX Technologies to construct a prototype micro reactor for Project Pele. With that work currently underway, they are now looking to X-energy to create a design that meets the technical requirements of Project Pele so it can be licensed by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for both commercial ventures and military uses.

However, the contract awarded to X-energy is not to physically build anything; instead, it is for one year of work to create a fully fleshed-out Preliminary Engineering Design that will allow the SCO to initiate a regulatory reapplication process and create competition in the niche field.

"The Strategic Capabilities Office specializes in adapting commercial technology for military purposes," SCO Director Jay Dryer said in a DOD release announcing the contract.

"By nurturing and developing multiple micro reactor designs,” he said, “SCO will not just provide options for the military services but will also help jumpstart a truly competitive commercial marketplace for micro reactors."

According to DOD, the department uses approximately 30 Terawatt-hours of electricity per year and more than 10 million gallons of fuel per day, though this number is expected to increase.

"Due to their extraordinary energy density, nuclear reactors have the potential to serve multiple critical functions for meeting resiliency needs in contested logistical environments," Project Pele program manager Jeff Waksman said. "By developing two unique designs, we will provide the services with a broad range of options as they consider potential uses of nuclear power for both Installation and operational energy applications in the near future."