Should US Commercial Nuclear Power Plants Be Located On Military Bases?

SM-1 Army nuclear power plant photo
The SM-1 Nuclear Plant was the first US nuclear power plant to be designed as
a training facility for military personnel. It was in operation from 1957 to 1973.
Image credit: Fort Belvoir

National Review Online has a short but fascinating post on the pros and cos of the notion to 'mandate' that new nuclear power plants be located on US military bases instead of having locations determined based on market demands, and the rules of the NRC, National Environmental Policy Act, and so on.

The reasoning behind this idea to militarize nuclear power siting procedures? You guessed it: keep those nasty protesters at bay and minimize the NIMBY factor. There's probably a "free" security argument to be made as well. Further commentary below; but, first, go read planet gore, Go Nuclear in New EnglandThere is a history behind this idea. From the US Army.

The Army Nuclear Power Program

The military considered the possibility of using nuclear power plants to generate alternate fuels almost 50 years ago and actively supported nuclear energy as a means of reducing logistics requirements for coal, oil, and gasoline. However, political, technical, and military considerations forced the closure of the program before a prototype could be built.

The Army Corps of Engineers ran a Nuclear Power Program from 1952 until 1979, primarily to supply electric power in remote areas. Stationary nuclear reactors built at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, and Fort Greeley, Alaska, were operated successfully from the late 1950s to the early 1970s. Portable nuclear reactors also were operated at Sundance, Wyoming; Camp Century, Greenland; and McMurdo Sound in Antarctica. These small nuclear power plants provided electricity for remote military facilities and could be operated efficiently for long periods without refueling. The Army also considered using nuclear power plants overseas to provide uninterrupted power and defense support in the event that U.S. installations were cut off from their normal logistics supply lines. ...

Not only that, but the pictured military training reactor, located at historic Fort Belvoir, amazingly, was followed with some experimentation in pre-fab housing:
The innovative initiatives pursued at Fort Belvoir during the post-war period were also illustrated in its residential architecture. In 1948, the well-known architectural firm of Albert Kahn & Associates designed the Thermo-Con House. This house form was intended to provide a prototype for low-cost, mass-produced housing. The construction of the house employed an innovative technique that used chemically-treated concrete that rose from its foundation like bread rising in a pan.

Speaking as someone who spent several years during the 1970's working on actual US nuclear plant siting assessments, I'm with the free market thinkers on this one. Let process economics, environmental impact potential, and community acceptance be what they may.

Waste would not be permanently stored on site, of course. Cooling water must come from outside the base and will have off-site thermal impacts. Any accidental releases could still affect surrounding communities. And so on. There is no "away."

Offbeat alternatives like this only serve to distract from the immediate policy choices.

More posts on new nuclear plant siting.
New Generation of Nuclear Power Plants More Expensive than Expected
The Next Nuclear Renaissance is Already Underway
Ontario Drops Plans for 2 New Nuclear Reactors Because of High ...
New Study Predicts US Energy Future: 45 New Nuclear Reactors, 100 ...
Comparing The Cost Of New Nuclear v.s. "Clean Coal" Plant ...

Tags: Nuclear Power


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