Nuclear Generator Movable By Cargo Plane. Not Only Possible, But Proven In Early 1960s 1

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  1. Perry says: “Wouldn’t it make abundant good sense if we had small modular reactors that literally you could put in the back of a C-17 aircraft, transport to an area like Puerto Rico push it out the back end, crank it up, plug it in that could serve tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of people very quickly. That’s the type of innovation that’s going on in our national labs.”

    Is this work really going on at the national labs or is this “alternative facts”? Sure the labs are involved in NuScale review and probably have some special purpose reactors under development for the DOE, but I am unaware of monies being spent on practical devices like Rick mentions. Plus, wasn’t DOE funding reduced recently?

    If you [promise to] build it they [talented, idealistic engineers] will come.

    Puerto Rico probably doesn’t want a nuclear power station, although it would suit them well. When will they ever get their act together?

    1. @scaryjello

      The Oak Ridge National Lab and the Idaho National Lab are doing a lot of enabling work for companies like Oklo and X-Energy. Their steady, patient development of TRISO based fuel is nearing the point at which the fuel can be qualified and support the direct cycle gas turbine that Adams Atomic Engines, Inc. developed and would still like to pursue.

      One of the reasons that company was put to sleep and then shut down completely was that there was no commercial U.S. source of the fuel we need. We briefed Bill Magwood and a cast of about 20 DOE/lab/contractor employees in about 2008 about our design. They were attentive and interested, but then informed us that the fuel developed by GA for Ft. St. Vrain had not been properly documented and could not be reproduced at a high enough quality to suit NRC. They showed us the program and the timeline for correcting that problem.

      It ran through 2021. That was way past the end of our runway and part of the reason that I decided to accept an employment offer by one of the people involved in the fuel development program. You might remember him as Jeff.

      Under the unusual leadership of people like David Petty and Madeline Feltus, that fuel qualification program has remained almost exactly on the timeline they showed us and should achieve its goals within a few months of the end date projected back in 2008.

      BTW – Puerto Rico once had a nuclear plant called the BONUS. Unfortunately, the Atomic Energy Commission and its contractors thought it was a good idea to build a unique new design on an island with a poor infrastructure, logistical limitations and inadequate resources for development and repair.

      I believe in deployable nuclear generators, but they should be finished products before considering using them in remote areas.

  2. Something that just struck me about the ML-1 relates directly to the cooling issue:  it needs to get rid of a lot of heat.

    Sometimes heat is the exact thing you need.  For instance, you have a bunch of refugees and they have to bathe once a day.  Steam tables for serving chow lines.  Just plain space heat to keep people from freezing to death after a winter disaster which puts them in tents.

    Yeah, 3 million BTU/hr would come in mighty handy in a whole bunch of situations.  180 kW wouldn’t hurt, but 3 mmBTU would be a literal lifesaver.

    1. @E-P

      Most of the plants that the Army developed, built and deployed as part of the Army Nuclear Power Program were cogeneration units that produced both electricity and useful heat or water distillation. It’s easy to understand the motive when you know the locations where the systems were operated. Greenland, Alaska, Wyoming, Antarctica, Idaho (2), Arlington, Panama Canal Zone.

      1. Would not be hard to size the LP Turbines to the proper size so as to be at the proper temperature for operating a still. Then add on a Lithium Bromide chiller for plant and community cooling. Years ago I read of a new shopping center that was given an exorbitant price for construction of the needed power lines by the local power monopoly. The engineers did the calculations and proved that it was cheaper to use a NG power DG to generate the electricity and use the waste heat of the Diesel to provide the heat to operate the LiBr Chiller to cool the Shopping Center – which needs cooling most of the year due to the body heat. Similar concept should work for facilities of that size.

  3. Rod – apropos your last point about parking a naval vessel in a remote location to provide power…there is some precedent for this – in the late 1930’s either the USS Lexington or Saratoga docked in Tacoma WA and plugged the engines into the city’s electric grid for a few weeks…which was going through an extended blackout. I’m sure there are more recent examples…

  4. Rod – thanks for the post. I found a complete version of the Army Nuclear Power Program video at (23:28) that also mentions the desirability of manufacturing hydrocarbon fuel using the mobile reactors.

    SwainS – you’re certainly right. I found videos of the the MH-1A Sturgis, a 10 MWe reactor constructed in a Liberty ship. See Floating Nuclear Power Plant January 31, 1967, Universal Newsreel (0:55) at According to wikipedia ( it supplied the Panama Canal Zone with 10 MW of electricity from 1968 to 1975. Also see the documentaries MH-1A STURGIS Construction Report (23:10) at and STURGIS barge (history and decommissioning, 3:45) at

    Ships have already been used to supply electricity. IIRC one of the USA’s nuclear aircraft carriers provided shore power in Indonesia following the 2004 earthquake and tsunami. Wikipedia confirms that the carrier Abraham Lincoln was there, but there’s no mention of providing electricity.

  5. Rod – Back in the early 1970’s I was a load dispatcher on board the USS Enterprise. A number of us worked with our Electrical Officer to see if we could supply emergency shore power for a humanitarian effort following a typhoon. Unfortunately our shore power design was engineered to supply the ship’s minimum loads while we were in port and our engineering plant shutdown. The capacity on our shore power breakers was limited to what was needed to start up our ship. Perhaps the newer ships have improved the design and have additional capacity available.

    1. @Jim Bowlby

      Wow, thanks for stimulating a new thought.

      The most recently launched aircraft carrier, the USS Gerald Ford, has an all electric power plant that uses electric motors instead of reduction gears and drive shafts.

      Of course, there are technical details that matter and that I do not know, but it would seem immediately apparent that USS Ford has far larger electrical generating capacity. It MIGHT be able to supply a lot more power to shore than the Nimitz class carriers can.

      That’s not much use in Puerto Rico’s case since its power plants are not damaged. Their issue is that a large portion of the power lines are down.

  6. “For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled,” Feynman

    Looks like Dr. Joe Romm has been fooled by someone.

    If work had continued on these portable reactors in time since the 1960s, think of all the folks who could have been helped by them since then.

    1. “If work had continued on these portable reactors in time since the 1960s, think of all the folks who could have been helped by them since then.”


  7. “Hurricane Irma destroyed almost all of the 16,748 panels in this solar farm September 17, 2017”
    Now consider the acreage, or should I say Sq Miles since it would be about 1/3 of Texas, of solar panels to provide “100% Renewable.” the sheer number and size of these farms means that there will be at least a 50/50 probability that they will be wiped out when a tornado crosses the tornado or a hurricane hits any of the typical east coast targets. 30 years experience in commercial power generation, Have worked in five different states with high potential for these types of natural disaster and never have the plants been knocked off line other than the NRC push to shut them down out of precaution. !00% renewables guarantees 100% probability for brownouts/blackouts for extended periods of time, regardless of how overbuilt the renewables and storage systems are.

  8. In Larry Niven’s and Jerry Pournelle’s novel “Footfall” from 1985, a nuclear craft of some type (can’t remember if it was a submarine or ACC) is used to supply substantial electrical power to a shore installation.

    Those two usually researched their novels pretty carefully. It would be interesting to know what they based that usage on.

    Unfortunately, Pournelle (also of “Byte Magazine” fame) passed away recently. Niven is still around. I’ll ask on the Niven email list. Sometimes he posts to the fan list.

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