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White House plans AMRs to power multiple Army bases in the United States

The White House has revealed plans for a deployment programme for advanced nuclear reactors, including modular- and micro-reactors, to power “multiple” US Army bases.

In a statement, the White House said: “Small modular nuclear reactors and microreactors can provide defense installations resilient energy for several years amid the threat of physical or cyberattacks, extreme weather, pandemic biothreats, and other emerging challenges that can all disrupt commercial energy networks.”

It confirmed that the United States Army will soon release a Request for Information to inform a deployment program for advanced reactors to power multiple Army sites in the United States.

“The Army is taking a key role in exploring the deployment of advanced  reactors that help meet their energy needs,” it stated.

This work sits alongside work by the the Department of the Air Force on its microreactor pathfinder and the Office of the Secretary of Defense Strategic Capabilities Office’s work to create a prototype transportable microreactor.

“These efforts will help inform the regulatory and supply chain pathways that will pave the path for additional deployments of advanced nuclear technology to provide clean, reliable energy for federal installations and other critical infrastructure,” it said.

The White house also says it is creating “a Nuclear Power Project Management and Delivery working group that will draw on leading experts from across the nuclear and megaproject construction industry to help identify opportunities to proactively mitigate sources of cost and schedule overrun risk”.

Reflecting on the news from the White House, Rolls-Royce Novel Nuclear business development and campaigns manager Catherine Harvey said: “Rolls-Royce is developing Micro-Reactors for both space and terrestrial usage.

“This advanced technology could bring power to a variety of situations including remote communities, military bases and on the lunar surface.”

The new was not welcomed by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

CND general secretary Kate Hudson said: “Rolling out nuclear reactors across US military bases will only add to the problem of nuclear waste and should not be considered a form of clean energy by anyone.

“While militaries should be looking to limit their fossil fuel emissions, genuine renewables like solar and wind should be expanded, not nuclear.”

Race to deploy SMRs

A global race is on to deliver the first small modular reactors (SMRs), advanced modular reactors (AMRs) and microreactors.

Earlier in May, Russian state nuclear energy company Rosatom announced the construction of a small nuclear power plant (SNPP) in Uzbekistan would start this summer.

In its statement, Rosatom seemed to conflate the reactor type it characterises as SNPP with small modular reactors (SMRs).

It is difficult to verify the legitimacy of the claims made by Rosatom because Russia does not have the same levels of transparency as is the case in countries like the UK which operate more open processes for developing reactor designs.

In the UK, the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) implements the UK’s nuclear energy standards regime which is informed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The ONR is currently working to advance designs for SMRs through its rigorous assessment process before giving the green light for development and deployment.

Great British Nuclear leading a competitive process for private firms to gain government backing for deployment. Six firms were shortlisted for government support to deliver a new wave of nuclear reactors in October last year.

The White House statement laid out a comprehensive list of measures the US Government is deploying to win the race to deliver AMRs and SMRs.

It said: “Department Of Energy’s Advanced Reactor Demonstration Program (ARDP) provides significant funding for nuclear demonstration and risk reduction projects. Awardees include Gen IV reactor vendors and developers TerraPower, X-energy, Kairos Power, Westinghouse, BWX Technologies, and Southern Company.

“The President signed a Congressional appropriations package providing $800M [£629M] to fund up to two Gen III+ SMR demonstration projects.  The implementation of this will be announced later this year. This package also appropriated $100M [£78.6M] for Gen III+ SMR design, licensing, supplier development, and site preparation.

“The Department of Defense (DOD) is funding Project Pele to develop a prototype microreactor (Gen IV) design for future use at defense installations.

“The Export-Import Bank of the United States (EXIM) and U.S. Department of State announced the “EXIM SMR Financing Toolkit,” a suite of financial tools to support SMR deployments and help U.S. exporters compete in the global SMR market.

“Preparing for factory-built microreactors: NRC staff identified potential regulatory solutions to enable licensing of microreactors that would be factory-built and then transported to a deployment site.

“Leveraging cooperation with international partners: NRC recently signed a memorandum of cooperation with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and the UK Office for Nuclear “Regulation to increase collaboration on the technical reviews of advanced reactor and SMR technologies.

“The Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Program Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) is also hosting several earlier stage R&D programs for advanced nuclear, including $87M [£68.4M] of funding to 30 projects with the aims of lower capital costs, lower O&M costs, and reducing spent fuel.

“President Biden will continue to take steps to reestablish U.S. leadership in the industry, including continuing to keep existing nuclear plants operational, supporting the demonstration and deployment of advanced reactor technologies, making permitting processes more efficient and effective, securing and expanding the nuclear fuel supply, strengthening nuclear safety, security, and safeguards, and supporting an ambitious strategy to ensure the nation’s nuclear leadership.”

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