NRIC wants to know: How could you use a hybrid nuclear energy system?

May 11, 2021, 12:02PMNuclear News
The demonstration program aims to accelerate innovation and deployment of energy concepts at the intersection of industry needs, NRIC’s mission, and the R&D portfolio of CTD IES. (Graphic: BEA)

The National Reactor Innovation Center (NRIC) wants to hear from developers and end users interested in integrated energy systems for advanced reactors. Battelle Energy Alliance (BEA), the managing and operating contractor for Idaho National Laboratory, has issued a call for Expressions of Interest for a potential multi-phase demonstration program for innovative uses of nuclear energy, to be carried out by NRIC and the Crosscutting Technology Development Integrated Energy Systems (CTD IES) program. The final date for responses is May 21.

In context: NRIC was created to accelerate the demonstration and deployment of advanced nuclear energy, while the CTD IES program conducts R&D to expand the role of nuclear energy beyond conventional nuclear power plants that produce electricity for the grid. The two programs, both led by INL for the Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy, are combining efforts to work with private companies, national laboratories, and other collaborators to support the use of integrated energy applications for advanced reactors.

The potential demonstration program is one part of a coordinated effort to deploy integrated energy systems that is detailed in a new report released on April 29 by the DOE. Hybrid Energy Systems: Opportunities for Coordinated Research highlights opportunities for joint research on hybrid energy systems that could drive the production of valuable fuels, chemicals, and products, provide greater cost savings, increase grid flexibility, and enhance environmental performance across a range of DOE-funded technologies.

The impetus: As stated in the Integrated Energy Systems Test Bed and Demonstration Program Request for Expressions of Interest, “Partnering with industry stakeholders for advanced reactor applications would demonstrate the versatility of nuclear energy beginning with the first units, providing a head start to industry partners seeking clean, reliable, scalable solutions for the transition away from fossil fuels and CO2 emissions.”

Key issues that must be addressed include heat quality and delivery rates (for example, steam temperatures and availability) and energy costs.

“As the intersection point between industry needs, NRIC’s mission, and CTD IES’s R&D portfolio, the demonstration program would identify and advance the most well-aligned and impactful projects from all three perspectives,” according to the solicitation.

Proposed program: The potential demonstration program would begin in 2021 with Phase 0, a “pre-phase” of planning and analysis.

Phase 1, nuclear reactor emulation, would follow in late 2021 and would use existing test bed capabilities with nonnuclear controllable electric heaters to emulate the integration of a nuclear reactor with thermal energy storage, high-temperature electrolysis for hydrogen production, or other novel applications. Phase 1 work with industry stakeholders could include designing system interfaces, addressing materials and supply chain gaps, and gathering test bed data.

Phase 2, microreactor applications, would incorporate two microreactor test beds currently under development at INL. The Microreactor Agile Non-Nuclear Experimental Test Bed (MAGNET), which will be operational in summer 2021, will simulate operating parameters and processes for microreactor concepts with electrical heaters. The Microreactor Applications Research, Validation and EvaLuation (MARVEL) project is expected to be completed in 2023 or early 2024 to permit a full demonstration.

Phase 3, advanced reactor applications, would integrate innovative systems with advanced nuclear reactor demonstrations being planned for larger sites over the next several years.

What they want to know: BEA is asking respondents to answer a series of questions about nuclear energy applications of the highest priority or interest; system interface parameters and other technical requirements, including heat temperatures and steam pressures, that should be used as design guidelines; and interest in equipment testing or as an end user of a nuclear-enabled product, potentially through a cost-shared agreement.

Funding sources have not been identified or committed for the program, but responses to the solicitation will inform future planning by gauging industry interest in demonstrating specific equipment or processes.

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