In its latest financial nod of encouragement to the U.S. nuclear industry, the Department of Energy has announced awards totaling $8.5 million to five industry-led projects, with the aim of accelerating the commercial deployment of advanced reactors and fuels.
The awards are funded via the Office of Nuclear Energy’s U.S. Industry Opportunities for Advanced Nuclear Technology Development funding opportunity, which, since 2017, has invested more than $215 million in advanced nuclear technologies. Solicitations are broken down into three pathways: first-of-a-kind nuclear demonstration readiness projects, advanced reactor development projects, and direct regulatory assistance.
“Advanced reactors will completely change the way we engineer, build, and operate nuclear reactors,” said Kathryn Huff, principal deputy assistant secretary for nuclear energy, in the DOE’s November 18 announcement. “These awards support technical and regulatory strides necessary for commercializing new carbon-free nuclear technologies poised to help our nation reach net-zero emissions by 2050.”
Awardees: The following were selected under the advanced reactor development projects pathway:
- Phase 2—Site Suitability Study for Small Modular Reactors and Microreactors in Puerto Rico—The Nuclear Alternative Project (Sugar Land, Texas) will evaluate the general site suitability for small modular reactors and microreactors in Puerto Rico. According to the announcement, the results of the study will support the DOE’s mission to commercialize these technologies in small island and/or remote locations. Total award value: $1,628,285. (The Nuclear Alternative Project’s DOE-sponsored preliminary feasibility study of nuclear energy for Puerto Rico was published in May 2020.)
- Off-Gas Modeling and Uncertainty Propagation to Support Molten Salt Reactor Licensing—Terrestrial Energy USA (Charlotte, N.C.) plans to develop an approach to handling uncertainty in the modeling of off-gas systems of molten salt reactors. The team will use available Nuclear Energy Advanced Modeling and Simulation program tools developed by the DOE and apply this methodology to the company’s Integral Molten Salt Reactor design. Total award value: $2,998,325.
- Accelerating Commercial Maritime Demonstration Projects for Advanced Nuclear Reactor Technologies—The American Bureau of Shipping (Spring, Texas) will focus on addressing hurdles in the maritime domain so that new reactor technology can be rapidly deployed for commercial applications. Total award value: $793,999.
- On the Path to a Nuclear Fuel Digital Twin: Modeling and Simulation of Silicon Carbide Cladding for Accelerated Fuel Qualification—General Atomics Electromagnetic Systems (San Diego, Calif.) hopes to deliver a constitutive model, based on physics, for its silicon carbide-based fuel for high-temperature gas reactors. The new tool is to be benchmarked against commercially available models and experimental data to demonstrate to regulators how the fuel behaves under all conditions in a reactor. Total award value: $2,730,335.
Grant assistance projects include:
- Advanced Modeling and Simulation to Characterize Advanced BWR Source Terms to Support a Regulatory Approval Pathway for Right-Sized Emergency Planning Zone—Pittsburgh Technical College (Pittsburgh, Pa.) plans to support the development of enhanced modeling and simulation capabilities for advanced boiling water reactors by improving existing fission product transport and deposition models. Total award value: $306,250.
The $8.5 million represents the 11th round of awards under this funding opportunity, the DOE said, adding that an application review will be conducted in fiscal year 2022, with the selection process continuing through December 2022.