The Post-Industrial Midwest and Appalachia (PIMA) Nuclear Alliance hosted its third workshop December 8—9 at Pennsylvania State University’s Digital Foundry at New Kensington. The alliance, which consists of Penn State and several academic, industrial, and national lab partners, was formed in May 2022 to harness carbon-free energy while educating and training the future energy workforce. Previous workshops were held in June and October this year.
Microreactor technology: The major focus of the alliance is innovation in microreactor technology and other advanced nuclear reactor technologies in the Midwest and Appalachia regions, with the overall goal of furthering the decarbonization of industries.
A specific objective of the partnership for Penn State is the establishment of a nuclear battery research, development, and demonstration platform on its University Park campus using Westinghouse Electric’s eVinci microreactor technology. This platform will enable work in such diverse areas as manufacturing, power conversion, industrial heat generation, critical mineral extraction, carbon-based materials, steel/concrete manufacturing, and food processing.
About the workshop: The December workshop highlighted the “resurgence in manufacturing and digital innovation that is transforming the community,” according to Jean Paul Allain, Huck Chair Professor and the inaugural head of Penn State’s Ken and Mary Alice Lindquist Department of Nuclear Engineering. “We want to immerse ourselves in community action in the PIMA regions to find out how micro nuclear reactors and advanced nuclear engineering can transform industries and create not only jobs, but sustained and resilient economic development.” He noted that Penn State is in a unique position with several potential venture firms and industry partners that have interest in advanced nuclear technology and deployment in central Pennsylvania.
Allain added that the ultimate goal of the alliance is “revolutionary” change in the nuclear energy industry, with dramatic reduction of energy costs. He explained, “We are striving to power a transformation of the greater Appalachia region and the postindustrial Midwest. We aspire to innovate and accelerate the adoption of microreactors—nuclear batteries—and advanced nuclear reactor technology across the regions of PIMA to impact difficult-to-decarbonize industrial sectors at scale.”
The collaborative partnerships of alliance, according to Allain, are crucial to the development and commercialization of microreactors and related technologies. He pointed out that the various alliance collaborations are investigating a range of technical and policy areas, such as advanced power conversion systems, advanced detection and safeguards, high-temperature nuclear materials, advanced manufacturing, nuclear energy policy, regulatory innovation, and social adoption of nuclear technology.
PIMA partners: The alliance was established by the Penn State Department of Nuclear Engineering, the University of Michigan Department of Nuclear Engineering and Radiological Sciences, the University of Tennessee–Knoxville, and Westinghouse. Additional partners now include the Pennsylvania College of Technology, Idaho National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Argonne National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Morgan Advanced Materials, Pittsburgh Technical, Energy Driven Technologies, and Reuter Stokes. The alliance also includes some faculty from the University of Central Florida, California Polytechnic State University, and Cornell University.