On August 25, 2011, I had the privilege of attending the ribbon cutting ceremony for the Center for Advanced Engineering Research (CAER) located in Bedford County, Va., near Lynchburg. The crowd at the event included representatives of local, state, and federal governments, as well as a number of area business people, academics, and boosters.
Rep. Bob Goodlatte, our local Congressman, was especially encouraging as he stressed the nuclear industry's importance to the region, the state, and the nation. Considering all of the less positive news that is being widely repeated about the industry's prospects in the wake of the Fukushima misinformation campaign, the Congressman's words helped to reinforce my own upbeat attitude about nuclear energy's future.
The CAER has two primary anchoring technologies-nuclear energy and mobile communications. At either end of the building, there are two towers; one of the towers is an enclosed triangle hosting B&W's Integrated System Test (IST) heat loop simulator for the B&W mPowerTM reactor, the other tower is an open tower with a spiral staircase that provides a place to install test antennas and measuring devices useful for communications research.
The IST is an important tool that will provide supporting data for use in validating heat transfer and fluid flow models for the B&W mPower reactor. That data and those safety performance models will be an integral part of the licensing activities for the system.
As I toured the CAER facility, I noticed the large, open cable hangers that will make it easier to reconfigure the building's communication networks. That capability will come in handy for both Areva and B&W; those anchor tenants are planning to use the facility to support development of advanced nuclear facility control rooms as well as other system testing. I suspect that other CAER tenants, many of which will come from the region's mobile communications industry, will also appreciate the flexible, high-capacity data networks that the facility will support.
The room that is scheduled to host Areva's reconfigurable digital control room has a large, glass-walled observation area that will be useful both for visitors and for researchers who are evaluating the ease with which operators interact with their displays and control systems.
On September 22, 2011, starting at 5:30 pm, the local American Nuclear Society (ANS) chapter will hold a meeting at the facility. CAER Director Bob Bailey will give a talk about the facility, its history, and its future looking mission. He will also open up the facility for tours to show off the capabilities and potential of the facility. I expect that the visit will inspire even more good ideas for ways to build on the momentum that the center's successful development has started. I hope to see some of you there.
It is terrific to have another facility that can support the continuing educational and professional development of the area's nuclear-focused workforce. All major industries need hubs of activity where positive feedback among people with similar interests encourages additional thoughts, ideas, and products. Lynchburg seems poised to expand its role as one of the hubs of nuclear technology within the United States.
Disclosure: I plan to be spending a significant portion of my professional life at the CAER in my full-time role as a member of the B&W mPower reactor development team. All of the opinions expressed here are my own and are not those of my employer.
Rod Adams is a pro-nuclear advocate with extensive small nuclear plant operating experience. Adams is a former engineer officer, USS Von Steuben. He is the host and producer of The Atomic Show Podcast. Adams has been an ANS member since 2005. He writes about nuclear technology at his own blog, Atomic Insights.