Making U.S. Navy carrier groups and Army bases more self-sufficient and energy-efficient could mean turning to mobile nuclear reactors. The Pentagon's DARPA scientists have put forth the modest proposal of deploying miniature reactors to convert hydrogen and carbon into military jet fuel, as well as providing power, The Register reports.
That plan could fit well with the U.S. Navy's "Green Strike Group" concept for biofuel and nuclear-powered vessels. The Register points out that nuclear-powered aircraft carriers could make use of seawater to make JP-8 jet fuel from carbon dioxide and hydrogen, courtesy of work by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory.
This gets trickier for U.S. military land bases that lack easy access to carbon feedstocks or massive quantities of water, but DARPA does hint at making use of the sewage lakes that have accumulated next to some bases in Afghanistan. Still, trucking in huge amounts of water could prove unwieldy.
The U.S. military has already begun deploying green technologies that aim for self-sufficiency for reasons beyond environmental concerns -- running fuel convoys puts U.S. warfighters in harm's way of insurgent ambushes and roadside bombs.
DARPA ultimately hopes for portable nuclear reactors that can provide 5 to 10 megawatts of electricity and produce 15,000 gallons of JP-8 or road fuel every day -- about enough fuel to top off a Chinook helicopter a dozen times, according to The Register.
Perhaps the biggest technical challenge is creating such small nuclear reactors in the first place. But at least Microsoft founder Bill Gates and others have already begun backing plans for shrinking nuclear power to portable sizes.
[via The Register]
aren't most US carriers and tactical subs already nuclear powered?
Interesting article. It leads to a question I've always had.
From my limited knowledge of nuclear subs and ships it appears they can go pretty much anywhere if the water is deep enough, dock at any port that is large enough to hold them and run for up to 25 years without refueling. So why not dock these things, similar to how you have these massive diesel generator barges and tie them into the electrical grid.
This would be a way of getting around all the environment issues with building a new nuclear plant. They have to conform to stricter regulation than a nuclear power plant and their reliability and endurance have been proven.
A country like Haiti could lease one of these considering all there power comes from diesel generators of all sizes.
Nothing green about the reasons behind this. It's purely to reduce the need for transporting supplies, particularly dangerous suupplies such as fuel.
Still, it's an excellent idea with a green result.
@deegeezee Yes, U.S. carriers are already nuclear-powered, and so (in theory) DARPA's idea could piggyback on those
I think to meet the power requirements for fuel production, they might have to add extra reactors to those ships. I don't know how much spare electrical capacity current carriers have.
Anything that reduces the need for supply convoys would be a big security improvement. Unfortunately this would not help our forces in the deserts of Afghanistan, since there are no seaports to dock the ships. Now if they could make a reactor small enough to be transported by Chinook helicopters (maybe in several pieces), this could be a great way to set up fuel and power outposts at our ground bases.
The Army already tried that. After the disaster at SL-1 (Idaho Falls) in 1961, it was decided that the Army couldn't operate reactors. Thanks to that disaster, we now have single rod subcritical withdrawl criteria.
Honestly, nuclear power is the answer. The Toshiba 4S is a good choice.
Well duh on the Army, their only good at shooting. It's the Navy with the brains to operate the nuke reactors.
Do it ! Good idea using existing certified plants with minimal implementation time. Next challenge please.
Mobil power plants and destroyers fitted with chemical lasers equals mobile missile defense.
"Perhaps the biggest technical challenge is creating such small nuclear reactors in the first place."
Are you kidding? The Army, Air Force and Navy all had functioning small reactors like this prior to the Vietnam war. That "technical challenge" was solved more than half a century ago.
The science is here and now check out what babcock and wilcox is already doing. Go to Babcock.com then products and modular nuclear .. They are already making and marketing this technology!
I think this is a great idea, only we need more supplies for the reactors. Seawater, maybe?
If this works, I'd love to see commercial jets powered this way. Less fossil fuel use. :-)
Pebble-bed reactors would be the most logical choice so there is no catastrophic "melt down" problems like with other reactor designs.
STUPID IDEA, ANYTHING BUT GREEN IDEA.
When you take uranium mining and processing, plant de-commissioning and spent fuel nuclear is not only dirty but the most dangerous of all the power generation methods.
No one has built any of the small modular reactors. Who knows what problems they will present. Small reactors also lose what's known as economies of scale. The smaller they are, the more they cost per output unit. Just plop one in at a remote location? Only with site preparation and sufficient cooling water.
I'm sure terrorist organizations would love the opportunity to get their hands one one---and it's plutonium containing fuel.