DOE, GE Hitachi working to lower cost of new nuclear builds

July 7, 2021, 3:00PMNuclear News

The U.S. Department of Energy has announced $5.8 million in funding to develop three construction technologies that together can reduce the cost of new nuclear builds by more than 10 percent.

What they are: The project team, led by GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy, will demonstrate three technologies, leveraging promising developments from other industries that have not been tested within the context of nuclear energy:

■ Vertical shaft construction, a best practice from the tunneling industry that could reduce construction schedules by more than a year.

■ Steel Bricks, modular steel-concrete composite structures, much like high-tech LEGO pieces, which could significantly reduce the labor required on-site.

■ Advanced monitoring, coupled with digital twin technology, which can create a 3D replica of the nuclear power plant structure.

These technologies can be applied to a variety of advanced reactor designs to significantly improve the economics of bringing advanced reactors to market.

Funding source: This project is funded and managed through the DOE’s National Reactor Innovation Center, which was established in 2019 to enable advanced reactor demonstration and deployment. The project, referred to as the Advanced Construction Technology initiative, will be conducted in two phases. The initial phase will focus on technology development and preparation for a small-scale demonstration. Pending the successful completion of the first phase and future appropriated funds, a second phase is planned to carry out the demonstration within three years of this award.

The team: GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy leads a proposal team that also includes Black & Veatch, the Electric Power Research Institute, Purdue University, Caunton Engineering, Modular Walling Systems Limited, the University of North Carolina–Charlotte, the Nuclear Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, and the Tennessee Valley Authority.

They said it: “Construction costs and schedule overruns have plagued new nuclear builds for decades,” said Kathryn Huff, acting assistant secretary for nuclear energy at the DOE. “By leveraging advanced construction technologies, we can drive down costs and speed the pace of advanced nuclear deployment—much needed steps to tackle global climate change and meet the president’s goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.”

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