The Department of Defense (DoD) has awarded BWX Technologies a $300 million contract to build the prototype for the first mobile nuclear microreactor built in the United States, titled Project Pele, the company announced June 9.

The microreactor is expected to be capable of producing between 1 and 5 megawatts of electrical power. BWX expects to complete the full-scale prototype of Project Pele in 2024, and the prototype will then be tested at the Idaho National Laboratory.

“We are on a mission to design, build and test new nuclear technology to protect the environment while providing power, and we are thrilled with this competitively bid award after years of hard work by our design and engineering team,” BWXT Advanced Technologies President Joe Miller said in the announcement. “The entire nuclear industry recognizes that advanced reactors are an important step forward to support growing power needs and significant carbon reduction imperatives.”

The award comes just under two months after DoD released the final economic impact statement (EIS) for Project Pele and proposed moving forward with testing. The goal of the project is to reduce the DoD’s reliance on local electric grids and diesel generators.

The contract is valued at $300 million and is expected to support more than 120 employees working on the project. Jeff Waksman, who is the program manager for Project Pele in the Office of the Secretary of Defense’s Strategic Capabilities Office, clarified on LinkedIn that building the microreactor itself is not expected to cost $300 million. Waksman said the funding will also pay for finalizing the design, modeling and experimentation “to answer regulatory questions,” and standing up new manufacturing capabilities.

“Advanced nuclear power has the potential to be a strategic game-changer for the United States, both for the DoD and for the commercial sector,” Waksman said when the Final EIS was released. “For it to be adopted, it must first be successfully demonstrated under real-world operating conditions.”

BWX said it will be building the Project Pele prototype with a transportable, modular design that is designed to be able to ship in compliant containers and easily assembled onsite within 72 hours. According to BWX, “The transportable reactor core and associated control system is designed to maintain safety under all conditions, including transitional conditions throughout transport. The fuel has been tested and verified to temperatures far exceeding the operating conditions of the reactor.”

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Lamar Johnson
Lamar Johnson
Lamar Johnson is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.