Los Alamos truck transportable nuclear fission reactor design

In 2015, Lockheed promised a nuclear fusion reactor design that could be transported via a heavy truck. Lockheed also was granted a patent for it. Additional research revealed the design would only have a chance to work with a 2000 ton reactor. There is still a decade or more of work to even prove that it could achieve fusion power generation. The development of the reactor is not funded. Lockheed only has a few people working on some experiments.

Los Alamos National Lab has a MegaPower nuclear fisson reactor design. It would be an integration of nuclear technology that all have a readiness level of 6 or higher. Los Alamos can make a 35-ton two-megawatt reactor that mostly be using heatpipes instead of traditional turbines. It is also designed to be passively safe. A very tiny kilopower nuclear reactor in the tens of kilowatts is being developed with NASA. The designs take known physics and technology and re-imagine and optimize from the start for small size and safety.

A portable nuclear generator could operate for 13 years without refueling. This would be very useful for military bases or remote locations where refueling with coal, natureal gas or oil would be difficult.

Truck Sizes and smallest current nuclear reactors

Normal US highway truck payloads max out at 17 tons. Heavier loads can be moved with special licenses. It is possible to move objects up to about 200 tons with trucks. There are even some special super-sized trucks that could move about 1000 tons.

The smallest nuclear reactors are currently those in military submarines which use highly enriched uranium to allow pressure water reactors to be made more compact. The exact sizes are secret but based upon the size of submarines and the fraction of space for propulsion and shielding the submarine reactors can get down to about 400-600 tons in size.

6. System/subsystem model or prototype demonstration in a relevant environment	
7. System prototype demonstration in an operational environment.	
8. Actual system completed and qualified through test and demonstration.
9. Actual system proven through successful mission operations.

The MegaPower reactor concept produces approximately two megawatts of electric power. The reactor would be attached to an open-air Brayton cycle power conversion system. A Brayton power cycle uses air as the working fluid and as the means of ultimate heat removal.

“MegaPower” reactor patent – Mobile heat pipe cooled fast reactor system US 20160027536 A1

It is estimated to cost about $150 to 340 million to develop.

MegaPower cost estimates include:
* Reactor technology development: $85 million to $125 million
* LEU fuel (16 to 19% enriched) depending on DOE fuel supply: $5 million to $45 million
* Development and test facility modifications: $50 million to $100 million
* Transport Security Armor development: $0 to $25 million
* NRC Licensing: $0 to $30 million
* Total estimated costs: $140 to $340 million

Molten Salt nuclear reactors under development in Canada, China and USA could be small and powerful

Terrestrial Energy of Canada commercial molten salt reactor working by 2025. They have a very compact nuclear core.

Other components could eventually be created to allow for a truck transportable design. Currently, the rest of the turbines and other parts would be as large as what is in nuclear submarines.

12 thoughts on “Los Alamos truck transportable nuclear fission reactor design”

  1. Heat dissipation is a problem in space/vacuum. You will need a larger radiator. One nice thing about a lunar use of Megapower is that you can just bury it and use regolith as a radiation shield. Apart from the extra radiators and digging equipment Megapower is basically rocket ready. It isn’t radioactive until you turn it on.

  2. The arctic comes to mind. Remote islands. Space command Lunar base Alpha. That kind of stuff.

    In fairness to kilopower the Curiosity rover RTG generates 0.11 kw of power and has a mass of 45kg. Kilopower can provide 9x the electricity (although unlike a RTG it will need a shadow shield).

    And lastly waste heat is a valuable commodity on a forzen world.

  3. “This would be very useful for military bases or remote locations where refueling with coal, natural gas or oil would be difficult.”

    You mean places of zero strategic interest?

    This is simply a training exercise for Los Alamos youngins to cut their teeth on. A physics subject for the noobs to study, not build. In the end they get to say that they designed a mobile power station (that never got built). I understand they did test kilopower, with the stirling engine, for about 30 hours; so if you want to make toast on Mars, we can do that.

  4. Faymonville website is advertising trucks that can transport up to 5000t. Available today.

    Problem solved.

    The Faymonville ModulMAX is a combinable road-going transport module with 2-6 axle lines and a total payload of up to 5,000 t.

  5. So of course the relevant post-Lockheed question is “what size of truck”?

    In all seriousness Megapower will be great lunar outposts and remote military bases but will not be cost competitive with any other normal grid connected power option.

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