GAIN funds companies’ work with ORNL on reactor siting and reprocessing

October 13, 2022, 9:30AMNuclear News
An aerial view of ORNL’s main campus. (Photo: ORNL)

The Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) announced the three recipients of its fourth and final round of 2022 vouchers on October 10. The vouchers were awarded to Curio Solutions, which is developing a spent fuel recycling process, and to two companies that are separately investigating advanced reactor siting—Elementl Power and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). The funds for each award will go directly to Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Curio Solutions: Curio Solutions of Washington, D.C., will work with the Nuclear Criticality Safety Group at ORNL to evaluate equipment design concepts for its NuCycle fuel recycling process and determine the criticality safety limits of the equipment that would contain fissile material in various chemical forms.

According to the project announcement, Curio’s technology “is a modular, integrated, compact, and proliferation-hardened process that can accommodate commonly used fuel types with minimal changes.” The project is intended to lead to a commercial case for used fuel reprocessing in the United States.

Elementl Power: Elementl Power of Greer, S.C., will use the ORNL-developed Oak Ridge Siting Analysis for power Generation Expansion (OR-SAGE) tool to help identify potential advanced reactor development sites in specific regions in the United States.

The project announcement explains, “Elementl Power is an advanced nuclear development company that identifies, acquires, and prepares locations throughout the U.S. to accommodate the deployment of advanced reactors.” Elementl is reportedly evaluating dozens of locations in the United States and will use data available through OR-SAGE to complement siting criteria issued by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and guidance documents from the Electric Power Research Institute.

TVA: TVA, based in Chattanooga, Tenn., will also work with OR-SAGE, with a focus on advanced reactor siting in the TVA service area, which includes Tennessee and portions of Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Virginia.

The project will screen the TVA service area to help determine suitable sites for future advanced reactor deployment. TVA already holds an early site permit from the NRC to construct and operate small modular reactors at the Clinch River Site, which is adjacent to ORNL and was chosen to host the Clinch River Breeder Reactor Project. Grading and excavation was carried out at the site before the project was terminated in the early 1980s.

About GAIN: GAIN was established in late 2015 as part of the Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy. In 2016, GAIN instituted its nuclear energy voucher program to provide advanced nuclear technology innovators with access to the research capabilities and expertise of national laboratories. Since then, 74 vouchers have been awarded to 44 different companies, for a total of $26.4 million in funding. The typical voucher is valued at $500,000 for a maximum project length of 12 months. All awardees are responsible for a minimum 20 percent cost share, which could be an in-kind contribution.

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