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US Air Force to install first micro-reactor in Alaskan air base

A F-35A Lightning II takes off from Eielson Air Force Base (US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jose Miguel T Tamondong)
The Department of the Air Force has selected its Eielson base in Alaska as the first test site for its  micro-reactor programme.

The decision follows the 2019 National Defence Authorisation Act, which requires the Air Force to operate a micro-reactor on one of its bases by the end of 2027. The micro-reactor will be owned and operated on a commercial basis, although no company has yet been named.

Eielson, located about 40km southeast of Fairbanks, is presently the home of the 354th Fighter Wing, which operates more than 50 F-35 fighter planes.

Mark Correll, a deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force, commented: “Energy is a critical asset to ensure mission continuity at our installations. Micro-reactors are a promising technology for ensuring energy resilience and reliability, and are particularly well-suited for powering and heating remote domestic military bases like Eielson.”

The Defence Department is working with the Department of Energy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to oversee the project and to ensure its safety.

Eielson currently operates its own coal-fired power station, which generates around 13MW from about 800 tonnes of coal a day.

The planned microreactor would supplement this with up to 5MW of nuclear power.

If the project is successful, many more Department of Defence installations may be fitter with similar units.

Microreactors are attractive to US planners because they allow bases to continue operating during blackouts. In the future, demand for electricity may increase as the use of electric vehicles, data centres and energy weapons increases.

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