NEXT Lab’s molten salt research reactor inches closer to NRC approval

November 22, 2022, 9:31AMANS Nuclear Cafe
The molten salt test loop at ACU’s NEXT Lab. (Photo: Jeremy Enlow/SteelShutter)

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has announced that it will review a construction permit submitted by the Nuclear Energy eXperimental Testing (NEXT) Laboratory at Abilene Christian University for the lab’s planned molten salt research reactor (MSRR). The NRC informed Rusty Towell, director of the NEXT Lab and professor in ACU’s Department of Engineering and Physics, about its acceptance of the construction permit review in a November 18 letter. The NEXT Lab had submitted the construction permit application on August 15; it was the first-ever university application for an advanced research reactor. On October 14, they provided the NRC with additional information about instrumentation and controls. (Nuclear News featured an article about the NEXT Lab and the MSRR in the November issue.)

Abilene Christian’s NEXT Lab reaches milestone in molten salt reactor research

November 14, 2022, 7:02AMNuclear News
Research engineers take a sample of molten salt for the NEXT Lab. (Photo: Jeremy Enlow/Steelshutter)

The Nuclear Energy eXperimental Testing (NEXT) Laboratory at Abilene Christian University in Texas created quite a bit of buzz within the nuclear community in August when it submitted the first application for a new U.S. research reactor in more than 30 years. The construction permit application submitted to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is for a molten salt research reactor (MSRR)—the first-ever university application for an advanced research reactor. Assuming NRC acceptance of the application, which could happen this year, a formal technical review of the lab’s MSRR plan will then begin, and construction of the MSRR could be completed by 2025. The Abilene campus’s new Science and Engineering Research Center—a 28,000-square-foot multiuse facility for chemistry, physics, and engineering research and education—is expected to be completed by July 2023 and will house the advanced reactor. The final step is to obtain the NRC operating license for the MSRR and commence operation.

Abilene Christian’s NEXT Lab applies for MSRR construction permit

August 18, 2022, 3:04PMANS Nuclear Cafe
Construction of the new Science and Engineering Research Center is underway on the ACU campus. (Photo: ACU)

The Nuclear Energy eXperimental Testing (NEXT) Laboratory at Abilene Christian University in Texas submitted a construction permit application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for its molten salt research reactor (MSRR) on August 15. According to ACU, the move represents the first application for a new U.S. research reactor of any kind in more than 30 years, as well as the first-ever university application for an advanced research reactor.