Friday 15 January 2021 - 12:38

The Last Craziness?! Trump Orders Agencies to Work on New Nuclear Powers

Story Code : 910333
The Last Craziness?! Trump Orders Agencies to Work on New Nuclear Powers
Trump directed agencies to work on new kinds of nuclear power for space exploration and military use.

The order promoting “Small Modular Reactors for National Defense and Space Exploration” was published on Tuesday. Though it promptly got lost in the media cacophony over the inauguration, impeachment and last week’s unrest at the US Capitol, its contents could have a long-lasting effect on US nuclear policy.

Declaring nuclear energy “critical to the national security, energy security, and economic prosperity of the United States,” Trump tasked several government agencies with working together to develop small nuclear reactors for use by the military, in space exploration, and domestic energy production.

Under the order, it shall be US government policy to bolster “national defense and space exploration capabilities” using nuclear technology, and enable private-sector innovation in the field, in order to “maintain technology supremacy for nuclear research and development, manufacturing proficiency, and security and safety.”

Noting that most of the reactor concepts rely on “high-assay, low-enriched uranium [HALEU], for which no domestic commercial enrichment capability currently exists,” Trump ordered the Department of Energy to finalize its “ongoing 3-year, $115 million demonstration” of a US-origin enrichment technology for producing HALEU, and develop a plan for giving it to the private sector.

The Pentagon was given six months to “establish and implement a plan” to demonstrate a micro-reactor at a “domestic military installation.” In coordination with the State Department, Commerce, Energy and NASA, the War Department was also told to pilot a “transportable micro-reactor prototype” and develop blueprints for nuclear power usage going forward – including for space propulsion.

The same five agencies were ordered to “develop a common technology roadmap through 2030” and coordinate the development of “terrestrial-based advanced nuclear reactor and space-based nuclear power and propulsion efforts.” On top of that, NASA was tasked with defining requirements for nuclear use through 2040 and producing a cost-benefit analysis.