Nukewatch Quarterly Summer 2020
Defense News reports that US military planners are seeking design ideas for small nuclear reactors that can supply electricity to combat operations in war zones. The Pentagon has given contracts to BWX tech, Westinghouse GS, and X-energy, launching a two-year design competition for a small reactor made to be “forward deployed with forces outside the United States.” Lt. Col. Robert Carver, a Pentagon spokesman told Defense News the reactor(s) would serve “a variety of [military] missions such as generating power for remote operating bases.”
The competition is for a small, portable prototype reactor potentially used in the midst of combat-riddled wars of occupation. The Pentagon’s spokespersons refer repeatedly to the plan’s “safety.” Carver told Defense News the plan “involves the development of a safe, mobile and advanced nuclear micro-reactor.” And program manager Jeff Waksman said in a Pentagon statement, that the plan’s “uniqueness lies in the reactor’s mobility and safety.”
While a more dangerous wartime target can hardly be imagined, the poison-powered war plan is only one of two. Pentagon and Department of Energy workers are currently running a pilot scheme for a small reactor, testing it at the DOE’s civilian Idaho National Laboratory, according to Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Mike Andrews.
Edwin Lyman, director of the Nuclear Safety Project at the Union of Concerned Scientists, believes that the Pentagon has “consistently underestimated” the “spectrum of mission risks posed by these micro-reactors,” especially in war zones. Reactors could be attacked or radioactive fuel material could be stolen and used in potential “dirty bombs.” -JL