April 25, 2023
Dr. Jeff Waksman, Office of the Secretary of Defense
Concerns around energy are not just limited to the commercial world. In today’s episode, we visit with Dr. Jeff Waksman, a program manager at the Department of Defense’s (DOD) Strategic Capabilities Office, to discuss just how important energy is to the U.S. government when considering operational logistics and protecting American armed forces from harm. Jeff is currently supporting the DOD’s Project Pele, an effort to demonstrate mobile, transportable, micronuclear technology that can displace some of the 30 TWhr of electricity the DOD uses each year along with the 10+ million gallons of fuel used every day.
With our set of 8 questions, Jeff Tillery and I probed into just what factors led the DOD to consider the need for, as well as the benefits to the DOD for mobile, micronuclear technology. We also cover how the DOD can overcome some of the cost challenges that are envisioned around first of a kind nuclear technology. Dr. Waksman previously spent several years working for NASA, and we also talked about how his experience there helped pave the way for the activities currently being engaged in as well as what success from those endeavors can be applied herein. Additionally, as commercially minded folks, Jeff and I asked Dr. Waksman about the importance of the commercial world in supplying such technology and whether one-off solutions were really what the DOD is looking for. While mobile, micronuclear technology may be new to the DOD, the Navy and other branches have decades of experience with mobile and fixed nuclear technology. Dr. Waksman also shared a little history of the evolution within the DOD that led to the current thinking. In our last few minutes, we switch gears slightly to examine the role that nuclear energy can play in space activities and what NASA is pursuing.
The topics we discussed with Jeff Waksman had many parallels to the everyday commercial discussions that we are more regularly engaged in. We hope that you will find the perspectives offered as interesting as we did.