The Center for Advanced Energy Studies (CAES) has announced the opening of the Small Modular Reactor Simulator Laboratory, featuring NuScale Power’s Energy Exploration Center, at its headquarters in Idaho Falls, Idaho. The new lab will increase CAES’s capabilities to train future scientists, engineers, and members of the energy workforce and will be used to educate the public about nuclear energy and reactor technology, according to an August 31 CAES press release.
The purpose: The new lab features a virtual nuclear power plant control room that allows users to assume the role of operator to learn about NuScale’s SMR technology. Tentative plans call for the first NuScale modular light water reactor power plant to be constructed on Idaho National Laboratory’s 890-square-mile desert site west of Idaho Falls as part of the Utah Associated Municipal Power Systems’ Carbon Free Power Project.
The Department of Energy grants that supported the installation of the NuScale simulator—and two others like it at Oregon State University and Texas A&M University—were announced in August 2019.
“The new lab provides a platform for communicating the importance of carbon-free nuclear power for attaining a safe, clean, and secure energy future for the U.S. and the world,” according to the CAES announcement. “The lab will enhance CAES’s community outreach efforts through demonstrations, tours, and education to community leaders, K–12 students, and interested citizens.”
What is CAES? The Center for Advanced Energy Studies is a research, education, and innovation consortium consisting of Idaho National Laboratory and Idaho’s public research universities: Boise State University, Idaho State University, and the University of Idaho.
CAES is headquartered in a 55,000-square-foot facility in Idaho Falls and uses a hub-and-spoke model to connect more than 7,000 researchers, engineers, and university faculty and more than 50,000 students. The new lab is expected to expand opportunities for collaborative research between CAES and NuScale.
University of Idaho takes the lead: CAES’s new laboratory is the result of a $286,000 grant that University of Idaho professor Richard Christensen, the principal investigator for the project, obtained through the DOE’s Nuclear Energy University Program. The project also involves University of Idaho professors Robert Borrelli, Michael Haney, and Michael McKellar, and NuScale’s Derrick Botha.
Idaho Falls now hosts the second such simulator to be installed in the United States. Oregon State’s simulator installation was completed in November 2020, according to NuScale.