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A New Energy Age for DoD. Unlimited Power to Support DoD Missions. Presented to 1 st Thorium Energy Alliance Conference! The Future Thorium Energy Economy 20 October 2009. James R. Howe

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a new energy age for dod

A New Energy Age for DoD

Unlimited Power to Support DoD Missions

Presented to 1st Thorium Energy Alliance Conference!

The Future Thorium Energy Economy

20 October 2009

James R. Howe

Vision Centric Inc.

256- 489-0869


The Future Becomes Reality


The Enabler

  • Background
  • Historic Service Programs Provide Foundation
  • Proposed Solution
  • DoD Energy requirements

-- DoD Distributed Power Requirement

-- DoD Remote Power Missions

-- DoD Logistics Issues: Electricity, Fuel, and Water

-- DoD Power Projection Missions

  • Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor (LFTR) Support to Service Missions

- Army/Marines

- Air Force

- Navy

  • Conclusions
  • Congress is funding research:
    • Advanced gas cooled designs
    • Factory provided, assembled on-site
  • DoD energy needs are increasing as available fossil fuels increase in cost and decrease in availability
  • Hundreds of small nuclear reactors have been built, mostly for naval use and as neutron sources
  • National Security requirement for independent power supply for DoD bases
    • Multiple small reactors could either be distributed or clustered to solve energy demand
    • Could be part of a Sandia National Laboratory micro grid concept
  • Characteristics of smaller nuclear reactors:
    • Greater simplicity of design
    • Economy of mass production
    • Reduce cost of site
    • High level of passive/inherent safety
background continued
Background (Continued)
  • Argonne National Laboratory (Argonne, IL) has developed a liquid-lead-cooled, fast-spectrum, solid-core reactor concept.
    • Requires a minimum of maintenance and can operate 30 years w/o refueling
    • Passive safety systems
    • Cooled by natural convection
  • Office of the Secretary of the Army for Installations and Environment
    • Leverages Energy and Environment projects
    • Uses catalyst technology projects
    • Executed by Florida International University
  • USAF is considering building a nuclear power reactor at one or more of its bases, to be privately owned and operated
    • Started by Kevin Billings, Assistant Secretary AF for energy, environment, saftey and occupational health (MAR 08)
      • Senator Larry Craig (ID) sent letter to SAF asking if AF was interested
      • Senator Pete Domenici (NM) sent a similar letter
three branches three reactor programs
Naval Reactor efforts began in the late 1940s with Rickover’s pursuit of a nuclear reactor for a submarines, culminating in the launch of the USS Nautilus in 1954.

Pressurized water reactor technologies were chosen based on their compactness and relative simplicity.

The Air Force also had a desire for a nuclear-powered aircraft that would serve as a long-range bomber.

An aircraft reactor was far more challenging than a terrestrial reactor because of the importance of high-temperatures, light weight, and simplicity of operation.

The Nuclear Aircraft Program led to revolutionary reactor designs, one of which was the liquid-fluoride reactor.

The Army Reactor Program began in 1953 to enable nuclear power for remote sites—they chose PWR technology because the Navy did.

Reactors for Ft. Belvoir, Ft. Greely, Camp Century, and other sites were built.

Three Branches—Three Reactor Programs
army nuclear power program
Army Nuclear Power Program

MA-IA Reactor

  • Key to the codes:
    • First letter: S - stationary, M - mobile, P - portable.
    • Second letter: H - high power, M - medium power, L - low power.
    • Digit: Sequence number.
    • Third letter: A indicates field installation.

The Army Nuclear Power Program (ANPP) was a program of the United States Army to develop small pressurized water and boiling water nuclear power reactors for use in remote sites.

Eight reactors were built in all: (Of the 8 built, 6 produced operationally useful power for an extended period)

  • SM-1, 2 MWe. Fort Belvoir, VA, first criticality 1957 (several months before the Shippingport Reactor) and the first U.S. nuclear power plant to be connected to an electrical grid.
  • SM-1A, 2 MWe, plus heating. Fort Greely, Alaska. First criticality 1962.
  • PM-2A, 2 MWe, plus heating. Camp Century, Greenland. First criticality 1961.
  • PM-1, 1.25 MWe, plus heating. Sundance, Wyoming. Owned by the Air Force, used to power a radar station. First criticality 1962.
  • PM-3A, 1.75 MWe, plus heating. McMurdo Station, Antarctica. Owned by the Navy. First criticality 1962, decommissioned 1972.
  • SL-1, BWR, 200kWe, plus heating. Idaho Reactor Testing Station. First criticality 1958. Site of the only fatal accident at a US nuclear power reactor, on January 3 1961, which destroyed the reactor.
  • ML-1, first closed cycle gas turbine. Designed for 300 kW, but only achieved 140 kW. Operated for only a few hundred hours of testing before being shut down in 1963.
  • MH-1A, 10 MWe, plus fresh water supply to the adjacent base. Mounted on the Sturgis, a barge converted from a Liberty ship, and moored in the Panama Canal Zone. Installed 1968, removed on cessation of US zone ownership in 1975 (the last of the eight to permanently cease operation).
reactors can be very small and powerful such as the nuclear aircraft concept
Reactors can be very small and powerful, such as the Nuclear Aircraft Concept
  • Convair B-36 X-6
    • Four nuclear-powered turbojets
    • 200 MW thermal reactor

Liquid-Fluoride Reactor

navy nuclear power program
Navy Nuclear Power Program

11 Nuclear Powered Carriers 69 Nuclear powered Submarines

More than 5500 reactor years without accident

proposed solution
Proposed Solution
  • Small liquid-fluoride thorium reactor (LFTR) driving closed cycle gas turbine engines
    • Characteristics;
      • Capacity: 10 – 100 MW
      • Modular construction, capable of transportation by air and ground vehicles.
      • Reactor size: 3m diameter, 6m high.
    • Potential Cooling Methods
      • Water cooled – desalinate with waste heat
      • Air cooled
    • Elements of design
      • Strongly negative power coefficient and void coefficient
      • Simple internal fuel and blanket reprocessing
      • High-temperature heat exchangers
      • Hastelloy-N core vessel stable in fluoride salt
      • Closed-cycle gas turbine with ~50% conversion efficiency
      • Hydrogen/ammonia production and desalination capability

DoD Power – Remote and Naval Ships

DoD Power – Remote

and Naval Ships






  • Kwajalein Test Range
  • Ft. Greely, AK
  • Global Power Projection
    • Lily Pad Strategy
  • Global Air and Missile Defense Sites
  • Major Overseas Bases: 36
  • BMD Early Warning Radars
  • Major Overseas Bases: 17
  • Global Power Projection
    • Lily Pad Strategy
  • Major Overseas Bases: 6
  • Global Power Projection
    • Lily Pad Strategy
  • Major Overseas Bases: 16
  • Global Power Projection
    • Sea Basing
  • Naval Ships
    • Carriers: 11
    • SSBN: 18
    • SSN: 53
    • CG(N)-X: 19?
    • Other Major Surface Combatants


  • Power for each major base/ critical installation independent of the US Power Grid
    • USAF: 71
    • USA: 59
    • USN: 57
    • USMC: 15

Ambassador Woosley: DoD Needs Distributed Power – “Small is Beautiful” (1)

Defense Infrastructure at Risk to National Grid Vulnerabilities

Need Power for Remote Sites, Global Bases, and Support to Expeditionary Forces

  • Major Bases
  • Army – 36
  • Navy – 16
  • Air Force – 17
  • Marines – 15
  • Intelligence community
  • U.S. Overseas Deployments
  • > 700 bases in > 130 countries
  • > 250,000 personnel
  • > 44,000 buildings

1. National Security and Homeland Security Issue

joint remote site power production
Joint Remote Site Power Production
  • All services have remote sites that require dependable 24/7/365 operation

Energy is a Major Component of Power Projection Logistics

  • How can we sustain forward deployed and power projection forces in the face of uncertain energy supplies and asymmetric threats?
  • Nuclear energy is a compact, cost-effective sustainable energy source
  • Combat Logistics – “Tooth to tail” ratio > 10-1
  • Extended (and vulnerable) supply lines
  • Prohibitive transportation costs – Fuel costs $100-600/gallon
  • Storage and distribution challenges – Large infrastructure costs
  • No, or inadequate local sources
  • Combat Losses
  • -- Men and material
  • -- Impact on Combat operations
  • Fuel Consumption per soldier is rapidly increasing
  • 2004  20 gallons/day
  • 2040  80 gallons/day
  • Battlefield supply volume
  • Bulk petroleum  40%
  • Water  50%

Energy is the Enabler of Military Operations


Transportable Reactors could Provide Electricity, Fuel and Water

  • The Past
  • ML-1 Reactor-1965
  • 6 Containers required
  • The Future
  • LFTR -10-30 MW
  • Air Transportable
  • Emplace in 3-5 days??
dod power projection missions
DoD Power Projection Missions

Iraq Bases

Afghanistan Bases

lftr could produce power potable water and hydrogen ammonium fuel for vehicles
LFTR could produce Power, Potable Water, and Hydrogen/Ammonium fuel for vehicles


Desalination to Potable Water

Facilities Heating

Low-temp Waste Heat

Liquid-Fluoride Thorium Reactor

Power Conversion

Electrical Generation (50% efficiency)

Electrical load

Electrolytic H2

Process Heat

Thermo-chemical H2

Hydrogen fuel cell

Ammonia (NH3) Generation

Automotive Fuel Cell (very simple)

Deployed forces logistics could be greatly reduced-no water, fuel, generators

lftr can power advanced army weapon sensor concepts
LFTR Can Power Advanced Army Weapon/Sensor Concepts

Advanced high energy lasers, electromagnetic guns, and sensors

will enable highly cost-effective ballistic missile defense and space operations

Global, real time communications

Electromagnetic Guns

illustrative long range strike capabilities enabled by thorium reactor power source
Illustrative Long Range Strike Capabilities Enabled by Thorium Reactor Power SourceGame Changing Technology Across Conflict Spectrum
  • Cost – Cost – Cost: EMG Radically changes cost of waging war
    • Offensive: $10-30 k/Rd and ~ $6 to launch 3000-6000 km
    • Defensive: ~ $30 k/Interceptor
  • Greater Standoffs = Reduced Ship Vulnerability
  • Volume and Precision Fires (< 3m CEP)
    • Multiple Objectives
  • Time Critical Strike (6-15 min)
  • All Weather Availability (24/7/365)
  • Variety of Payloads
    • WH: Penetrators/KEPs – can destroy most targets of interest
    • Sensors: Air, Ground, Sea
  • Scaleable Effects
    • Minimize Collateral Damage
  • Deep Magazines (1000-3000+ rounds/gun)
  • Non-explosive Round/No Gun Propellant
    • Simplified Logistics

Hypervelocity Impact Imparts High Energy

Hypervelocity Impact (M5+)

(1) Long-range Offensive Missiles cost ~ $500k to $3M+ and Defensive Interceptors cost $1-3M+

lftr can power advanced air force concepts
LFTR can Power Advanced Air Force Concepts


Long Endurance UAV’s

Power Space Based Systems

- Communications

- Sensors

Overseas Bases


Thorium Reactors Can Be Cost-Effectively

Used for All Navy Ships

Aircraft Carriers - 12

Cruisers - 22

Destroyers – 53+

Frigates – 30

Littoral Combat Ships - TBD

Amphibious Assault Ships - 11

SSBN – 14

SSGN – 4

SSN - 53

Thorium Reactors are expected to be smaller, lighter, safer and less costly


Requirements to Construct Nuclear Powered Naval Ships

  • FY 2008 Defense Authorization Act
      • Section 1012 of the 2008 Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 4986/P.L. 110-181 of January 28, 2008Nuclear Power Systems for Major Combatant Naval Vessels – Requires that all new classes of submarines, aircraft carriers, cruisers, large escorts for carrier strike groups, expeditionary strike groups, and vessels comprising a sea base have integrated nuclear power systems, unless the Secretary of Defense submits a notification to Congress that the inclusion of an integrated nuclear power system in a given class of ship is not in the national interest.
  • Rapidly emerging need for high MW Electric Power ships for advanced weapons and sensors.




What Future Vessels Must Provide

  • “Four themes hardware producers need to accommodate
  • Systems must be capable of supporting the transformation mission
    • LCS – shallow water; High speed
    • Advanced weapons and sensors
  • Reduced manning is vital
    • As personnel costs drive total cost, value of reducing crew size achieves similar importance to acquisition system cost reduction
  • Logistics must be simplified
    • Common elements, reduced numbers of models/series
    • De-salinated water and other products
  • Open Architecture is paramount
    • Allows rapid upgrade of systems to the latest technologies
    • Allow for continuing competition of the best ideas/capabilities”
  • Donald C. Winter, Secretary of the Navy, remarks to Bear Sterns Defense and Aerospace Conference, 31 May 2006, Ritz Carlton, Arlington, VA
  • LFTR successfully addresses each
  • Scaleable to fit LCS and other ships
  • Power for EM Guns/sensors
  • Global range at flank speed
  • Simplicity & safety reduces operations manpower, increases flexibility which further reduces crew size
  • LFTR reduces ship fire and damage control crews
  • Reduced logistics-Cuts the single biggest supply line - fuel
  • Scales favorably
  • All electric systems have reduced maintenance & weapons have reduced logistics and storage requirements
  • Potentially fits into existing DDX vessel designs
  • All electric systems allow fast upgrades and retrofitting




Thorium Reactors Can Capitalize on Existing Engine Design/Technology,

Significantly Reducing Engine Development Cost/Schedule

  • Billions have been spent on optimizing jet engine technologies.
  • Available infrastructure is ready to optimize closed-cycle jet engine architecture
  • Key components:
    • Single crystal turbine blade manufacturing
    • Low-friction magnetic and mechanical bearings
    • Computational fluid codes to model engine dynamics
    • Aerogel insulation
  • Existing turbojet/turbofan engine technology can be adapted
    • Small cruise missile class to very large ship class
    • Dual mode is commonplace
  • Technologies developed for early nuclear propulsion programs can be applied




Ex: Pressurized-water Naval Nuclear Propulsion System

SSBN: 42’

SSN: 33’

CGN: 42’

SSBN: 55’

SSN: 42’

CGN: 37’




LFTR Could Cost 30-50% Less Than

Current Naval Reactors

  • No pressure vessel required
  • Liquid fuel requires no expensive fuel fabrication and qualification
  • Smaller power conversion system
  • No steam generators required
  • Factory built-modular construction
  • Smaller containment vessel needed
    • Steam vs. fluids
  • More simple operation
    • No operational control rods
    • No re-fueling shut down
  • Smaller Crew
  • Lasts for Ship Lifetime

Recent Ship Propulsion Designs at NPGS have included thorium reactors

  • Preliminary LFTR design in work for a ship propulsion system
  • Neutronic codes for liquid fuels under development – Needed to design propulsion system
  • LFTR ship propulsion is expected to be smaller, lighter and cheaper than current nuclear propulsion systems
  • Utilizes closed-cycle gas turbines which can take advantage of existing gas turbine engine technology.
lftr supports maritime strategic concept
LFTR Supports Maritime Strategic Concept
  • Strategic Imperatives
    • Limit regional conflict with forward deployed, decisive maritime power
    • Deter major power war
    • Win our nation’s wars
    • Contribute to homeland defense in depth
    • Foster and sustain cooperative relations with more international partners
    • Prevent or contain local disruptions before they impact the global system
  • Expanded Core Capabilities
    • Forward Presence
    • Deterrence
    • Sea Control
    • Power Projection
    • Maritime Security
    • Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief



liquid fluoride thorium reactors significantly enhance the following capabilities
Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors Significantly Enhance the Following Capabilities:Fully Integrated Propulsion, Sensors, Weapons
  • Ship
  • Higher sustained speeds provides real-time response
    • Transit
    • Operations in Theatre
  • No requirement to re-fuel
    • Transit
    • Operations in Theatre
  • Power
    • Advanced Radars (New Aegis radar requires ~ 30 MW power)
    • Electro-magnetic guns – Need GW power levels
      • Self Defense
      • Strike 2020: 500+ km 2030: 3000+ km
      • Ballistic Missile Defense 2020: 500+ km 2030: 3000+ km
    • Directed Energy Weapons
    • Other Sensors, e.g. Pulsed Sonars
    • High Power Microwave Weapons
  • High Power Density Propulsion
    • Frees weight/space for high value/high impact assets
  • Survivability
    • No exhaust stack – reduced IR/RCS signatures
    • No fuel supply line
    • Power self defense capabilities



liquid fluoride thorium reactors significantly enhance the following capabilities cont
Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors Significantly Enhance the Following Capabilities (Cont.):
  • Force Enhancement
  • Reduced energy independence – no reliance on fuel tankers
    • No need to provide protection to tankers, LOCs, or fuel suppliers
    • No dependence on foreign oil
    • No reduced transit speed/time off station to re-fuel
  • Greater forward presence
  • Response to crises/conflicts
  • Un-paralleled flexibility moving between theatres
    • Surge ability
    • On-station time
  • Superiority on the sea
  • Reduced cost/ship = more ships



reduced transit times to potential conflict zones
Reduced Transit Times to Potential Conflict ZonesLFTR Powered Ships Could Maintain 35+ KT Speed – No Refueling

A - Pearl Harbor

to Taiwan

4283 nm

E - Norfolk to

Persian Gulf (via Suez canal)

~ 8,300 nm

C - San Diego

to Taiwan

5933 nm



D - San Diego

to Persian Gulf

(via Singapore)

~ 11,300 nm



B & D

B - Pearl Harbor

to Persian Gulf

(via Singapore)

~ 9500 nm

Transit time - hours


20 KT*

35 KT+?
















  • ~ 20 kt speed
  • Need to re-fuel every 4-6 days

*Plus Re-fuel time



illustrative example of thorium reactor provides weapon power source for all naval ships
Illustrative Example of Thorium Reactor ProvidesWeapon Power Source for All Naval Ships

Directed Energy Weapon

Advanced Radars

> 30 MW power needed

Electromagnetic Guns

2020: > 500 km

2030: > 3000 km?



A 100 MW LFTR Can Provide the Power Needed for Electromagnetic Guns for Both Advanced Weapons and Sensors (1)

Figure 2. Naval EM Gun System Architecture

Figure 5. Power Requirements as a Function of Firing Rate.

EM Gun

20 kg Launch package

15 kg flight

2.5 km/s at muzzle

63 MJ Muzzle Energy

Range: ~ 500 km

(1) Data from “Integration of Electromagnetic Rail Gun into Future Electric Warships.”, A. Chaboka, et al.

naval em guns with 3 000 6 000 km range can 24 7 365 cover all target areas of interest
Naval EM Guns With 3,000 - 6,000 km Range Can 24/7/365 Cover All Target Areas of Interest

Is this the future of naval forces?





  • Liquid fluoride thorium reactors can provide a substantial proportion of future DoD energy requirements
  • Major US Bases
  • Remote Sites
  • Forward Deployed Forces
  • Power Projection Forces
  • Naval Ship Propulsion
  • Power New Weapon & Sensors
  • Electricity
  • Fuel
  • Water