NuScale Power and Metatomic Energy stand to gain from national lab expertise

October 2, 2023, 12:13PMNuclear News

Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) has awarded separate vouchers to NuScale Power and Metatomic Energy to support the development of their small modular reactor and spent nuclear fuel conversion technologies.

The two companies will leverage research capabilities at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Savannah River National Laboratory, respectively. Announced on September 26, this is the fourth round of GAIN vouchers awarded for fiscal year 2023; the first round was announced in December 2022, the second in March, and the third in June.

Industrial-scale heat: NuScale Power, of Corvallis, Ore., will work with ORNL to assess the potential of a NuScale-developed heat augmentation system that could be integrated with the VOYGR light water–cooled small modular reactor to produce high-temperature steam, which could serve as a low-carbon heat input for a chemical plant. The steam produced by a light water reactor has a lower temperature than that produced by some advanced reactor designs using other coolants—most notably high-temperature, gas-cooled reactor designs. A heat augmentation system could raise the steam temperature, and NuScale’s GAIN research abstract points to “questions on requirements and cost effectiveness to integrate such a system.”

NuScale will work with ORNL to “perform a techno-economic analysis of a NuScale plant with a novel heat augmentation system for application to a commercial-scale chemical production facility to help understand the functional requirements for the system and determine best ways to integrate with the facility.”

Earlier this year, NuScale issued a press release with details about a “compression heating system” that could produce superheated steam for industrial processes.

Lab-scale recycling demo: Metatomic, of Greenville, S.C., will work with SRNL to demonstrate a patented spent fuel recycling process developed by the company to yield fuel for molten salt fast reactors. The award for “Molten Salt Immersed Hydrochlorination Subsystem Characterization” will generate data to help assess the feasibility of the system.

SRNL will provide facilities and spent fuel handling expertise for bench-scale and lab-scale demonstration and data generation, according to Metatomic’s GAIN research abstract. The data generated at laboratory scale would confirm the feasibility and basis for scaling to an industrial-scale capability.

About GAIN: GAIN was established by the Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy to provide the nuclear community with technical, regulatory, and financial support to move innovative nuclear technologies toward commercialization and ensure the continued, safe, and economic operation of the existing fleet.   

GAIN voucher recipients do not receive direct financial awards. Instead, the vouchers provide funding to national laboratories to help businesses overcome technological and commercialization challenges. All awardees are responsible for a minimum 20 percent cost share, which could be an in-kind contribution.

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