USAF wants to install a small nuclear reactor at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska

USAF wants to install a small nuclear reactor at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska

By Dario Leone
Oct 1 2022
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Micro-reactors are small nuclear reactors that can produce clean energy and are equipped with built-in safety features that self-adjust to changing conditions and demands to prevent overheating.

The Department of the Air Force, in partnership with the Defense Logistics Agency Energy, released a request for proposal for the Eielson Air Force Base (AFB), Alaska Micro-Reactor Pilot Program on Sep. 26, 2022.

This is an important first step toward developing the next-generation energy technology needed for energy resilience at Eielson AFB and to inform future initiatives to power national security infrastructure.

According to a USAF news release, micro-reactors are small nuclear reactors that can produce clean energy and are equipped with built-in safety features that self-adjust to changing conditions and demands to prevent overheating. The technology’s ability to operate independently from the commercial grid and reduce greenhouse gas emissions make micro-reactors a promising power source for remote domestic military installations critical to the national security infrastructure.

“The release of the RFP for the Eielson AFB micro-reactor is a critical next step in furthering the development and deployment of reliable and clean energy technology at Department of the Air Force installations,” said Ms. Nancy Balkus, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Environment, Safety and Infrastructure. “This program is extremely important to mission assurance and sustainment in the face of climate change and continued national defense threats, and demonstrates the department’s commitment to ensuring our installations have a safe, reliable supply of energy, no matter their location.”

The Micro-Reactor Pilot Program was initiated in response to the Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act requirement to construct and operate a micro-reactor by the end of 2027. The micro-reactor will be licensed by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, but commercially owned and operated.

In conjunction with the release, the DAF is hosting a pre-proposal conference and site visit at Eielson AFB on Oct. 12. Interested parties intending to submit a proposal may attend the site visit, which will provide prospective offerors with information to prepare proposals.

Eielson AFB is a US Air Force (USAF) base located approximately 26 miles (42 km) southeast of Fairbanks, Alaska and just southeast of Moose Creek, Alaska. It was established in 1943 as Mile 26 Satellite Field and redesignated Eielson AFB on Jan. 13, 1948. It has been a Superfund site since 1989. Eielson AFB was named in honor of polar pilot Carl Ben Eielson.

The 354th Fighter Wing is the host unit at Eielson AFB and is assigned to 11th Air Force, headquartered at Elmendorf AFB near Anchorage. Eleventh Air Force falls under Pacific Air Forces, which is headquartered at Hickam AFB, Hawaii. The wing supports operations, maintenance, mission support, and medical group functions and is host to ten tenant units.

Eielson fields 54 F-35s assigned to the installation, of which the first two aircraft arrived on Apr. 21, 2020. The last of the 54 aircraft arrived in April 2022. The planes come with an estimated 3,500 personnel, to include airmen and their families as well as civilian personnel. The F-35 program increases the number of military personnel at Eielson by about 50 percent, which is a significant change for a base once on the brink of closure.

Photo credit: U.S. Air Force

F-35A print
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Dario Leone

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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