Before the discovery of nuclear fission, the only power source capable of supplying reliable electrical energy in remote locations was a combustion engine. Because of its compact nature compared to a coal fired steam engine, the internal combustion engine was the power system of choice.
When engineers realized that a fission power plant could operate for years without new fuel, the people in charge of supplying fuel to remotely located combustion engines got very interested. If nuclear power was properly developed, it would eliminate the need to move millions of gallons of oil to remote areas of the globe. Putting a plant in Antarctica to supply the growing research effort there seemed like a natural way to put the new technology to the test.
When the plant for McMurdo Station was initially proposed, it was envisioned that it would be the first of a series of plants that could be delivered by air to remote sites, particularly other Antarctic research stations like Byrd and South Pole station.
Based on this criteria, PM-3A was designed in modules that were no larger than 30 feet long, 8 feet 8 inches square, and 30,000 pounds. These limits were based on the capacity of C-130 aircraft, which could be used to deliver similar plants to interior stations at a later time. The final plant design included 18 such modules for a total plant weight of less than 250 tons.
In comparison, a diesel engine providing 1800 kilowatts of electricity at a capacity factor of 70 percent would burn approximately 1100 tons of fuel each year.
|REACTOR TYPE||Pressurized Water||Pressurized Water|
|POWER (THERMAL)||9.36 Megawatts||11.27 Megawatts|
|NET OUTPUT (ELECTRICAL)||1500 kilowatts||1800 kilowatts|
|FUEL||93.2% enriched in U-235||9.6% enriched|
|ELEMENT CONSTRUCTION||Tubular cermet||Pellet in rod|
|FUEL CLADDING||Modified type 347 SS||Type 348 SS|
|MODERATOR, REFLECTOR, AND COOLANT||Water||Water|
|CONTROL ROD MATERIAL||Europium||Europium|
|PRIMARY PRESSURE||1300 psia||1300 psia|
|CORE INLET TEMPERATURE||447 F||447 F|
|CORE OUTLET TEMPERATURE||479 F||479 F|
|PRIMARY COOLANT FLOW||2200 gpm||2200 gpm|
|STEAM FLOW RATE||36,131 lbs/hr||42,900 lbs/hr|
|STEAM PRESSURE LOADED||300 psig||280 psig|
|NUMBER OF COOLANT LOOPS||1||1|
|NUMBER OF COOLANT PUMPS||1||1|