The US Department of Defense’s (DoD) Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO) has chosen BWX Technologies (BWXT) to build the first advanced nuclear microreactor under Project Pele.

As part of the $300m cost-type contract, BWXT Advanced Technologies will build the prototype in its Lynchburg, Virginia, and Ohio facilities.

The company is likely to bring in over 120 employees, including skilled trades workers and engineers, for the project.

BWXT Advanced Technologies president Joe Miller said: “We are on a mission to design, build, and test new nuclear technology to protect the environment while providing power.”

In March 2020, the DoD awarded contracts to three teams, BWXT, Westinghouse Government Services, and X-Energy, to develop mobile microreactors to power military bases.

After a two-year design-maturation period, the DoD selected BWXT to build and demonstrate the prototype.

BWXT is the prime contract and integration lead. Other companies supporting the delivery and operation of the prototype include Northrop Grumman, Aerojet Rocketdyne, Rolls-Royce LibertyWorks, and Torch Technologies.

The mobile microreactors will supply clean and zero-carbon energy to the DoD. They can also be used to support disaster response and recovery efforts, decarbonisation activities, and supply power to remote areas.

The reactor can be rapidly transported via road, rail, sea, or air. Its design ensures safety during transitional conditions.

The system takes 72 hours to start functioning after it is assembled on-site, and requires less than seven days to shut down, cool down, or disconnect.

The high-temperature, gas-cooled reactor will be powered by TRISO fuel that has low environmental risks. The fuel has been tested to temperatures exceeding the operating conditions.

The system will work at power levels between one and five megawatts electric.

As per the terms of the contract, the full-scale transportable prototype will be ready for delivery in 2024.

The microreactor prototype will then be tested at the Idaho National Laboratory for three years to check its operability.