No cold feet: ARPA-E wants to explore low-energy nuclear reactions

September 22, 2022, 12:01PMNuclear News

The Department of Energy announced September 13 that it would spend up to $10 million in a bid to settle the question of whether low-energy nuclear reactions (LENR)—historically known as “cold fusion”—could ever become a carbon-free energy source. The funding is part of an Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-E) LENR Exploratory Topic designed to “encourage the submission of the most innovative and unconventional ideas in energy technology.”

Zap Energy strives for magnetic confinement fusion power—with no magnets

July 5, 2022, 7:00AMNuclear News
The first plasmas created in FuZE-Q, shown here during assembly, represent a key step towards fusion experiments with net energy output. (Photo: Zap Energy)

Zap Energy has created the first plasmas in its FuZE-Q machine—the company’s fourth prototype machine and the one it hopes will demonstrate a net energy gain from a Z-pinch fusion plasma just one millimeter in diameter and half a meter long. Zap Energy announced that engineering achievement and the close of $160 million in Series C funding in late June.

DOE funds R&D for advanced reactor fuel cycle management

March 14, 2022, 7:01AMNuclear News

The Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-E) has awarded a total of $36 million for 11 projects to develop technologies that will limit the amount of waste produced from advanced reactors and will support sustainable domestic fuel stocks. The projects include research into the facilities and systems required to reprocess, recycle, and dispose of spent fuel generated through diverse advanced reactor fuel cycles.

House appropriators pass bill with more funding for nuclear energy

July 19, 2021, 12:01PMNuclear News

The House Committee on Appropriations last week approved an Energy and Water Development funding bill for fiscal year 2022 that provides an 11 percent increase for the Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy.

Reported favorably out of committee on July 16 via a party-line vote of 33 to 24, the House bill sports a total price tag of $53.2 billion, an increase of $1.5 billion from the FY 2021 enacted level. (The committee’s official report on appropriations for the next fiscal year can be found here.)

DOE announces funding for advanced reactor fuel cycle and reprocessing R&D

May 21, 2021, 7:06AMNuclear News
This figure, included in the ONWARDS funding opportunity announcement, shows how ARPA-E R&D programs address different stages of advanced reactor development. (Figure: ARPA-E)

The Department of Energy has announced up to $40 million in funding for a new Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) program to conduct research and development into technologies for reprocessing and ultimately disposing of used nuclear fuel. The program, “Optimizing Nuclear Waste and Advanced Reactor Disposal Systems” (ONWARDS), announced on May 19, targets both open (once-through) and closed (reprocessing) fuel cycles to reduce the amount of waste produced from advanced reactors tenfold when compared to light water reactors.

2021 ARPA-E Summit to take place virtually May 24–27

March 23, 2021, 12:00PMNuclear News

Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm announced last week that the 2021 ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit, hosted by the Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-E), will take place May 24–27 in a fully virtual format.

The Department of Energy’s ARPA-E Summit will bring together experts from industry, investment, academia, and government to discuss some of the toughest challenges facing the energy community. The 2021 summit’s theme is “Expanding American Energy Innovation,” a nod to both the agency’s energy research and development mission and its goal to grow the energy innovation community.

According to the DOE, the virtual event will combine the most popular elements from past ARPA-E Summits with new ways to stay connected in the virtual format, including four days of main-stage speakers and panels, a virtual technology showcase for attendees to meet with and learn about ARPA-E awardees, and networking sessions and news of other new ways to stay connected virtually.

Gates highlights nuclear’s role in fighting climate change

February 19, 2021, 9:29AMANS Nuclear Cafe

Gates

Bill Gates is making the media rounds to promote his new book, How to Avoid a Climate Disaster: The Solutions We Have and the Breakthroughs We Need, which was released on Tuesday. Along the way, he’s been touting nuclear energy as part of his master plan for battling climate change.

60 Minutes: Gates kicked off the week with an appearance on 60 Minutes on Sunday. During the nearly 15-minute segment with correspondent Anderson Cooper, Gates discussed TerraPower, the company he founded in 2006 that is dedicated to nuclear innovation. “Nuclear power can be done in a way that none of those failures of the past would recur, because just the physics of how it's built,” Gates said, referring to TerraPower’s Natrium reactor. “I admit, convincing people of that will be almost as hard as actually building it. But since it may be necessary to avoid climate change, we shouldn't give up.”

Notes on fusion

January 22, 2021, 12:23PMNuclear NewsDavid Kingham and Josh Kennedy-White

The ST25-HTS tokamak.

Governments around the world have been interested in fusion for more than 70 years. Fusion research was largely secret until 1968, when the Soviets unveiled exciting results from their tokamak (a magnetic confinement fusion device with a particular configuration that produces a toroidal plasma). The Soviets realized that tokamaks were not useful as weapons but could produce plasma in the million-degree temperature range to demonstrate Soviet scientific and technical prowess to the world.

Following this breakthrough, government laboratories around the world continued to pursue various methods of confining hot plasma to understand plasma physics under extreme conditions, getting closer and closer to the conditions necessary for fusion energy production. Tokamaks have been by far the most successful configuration. In the 1990s, the Tokamak Fusion Test Reactor at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory produced 10 MW of fusion power using deuterium-tritium fusion. A few years later, the Joint European Torus (JET) in the United Kingdom increased that to 16 MW, getting close to breakeven using 24 MW of power to heat the plasma.

Bloomberg: Stanford prof a front runner to lead Biden DOE

November 12, 2020, 3:01PMANS Nuclear Cafe

Majumdar

Arun Majumdar, a professor of mechanical engineering at Stanford University and former vice president for energy at Google, is a leading contender for secretary of energy in a Biden administration, according to a November 12 Bloomberg story.

Chosen on November 10 to lead Biden’s Department of Energy transition team, Majumdar was also the first director of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-–Energy (ARPA-E), serving in that role from 2009 to 2012. Bloomberg quotes Jeff Navin, director of external affairs at TerraPower, as saying, “He had as good relationships with Republicans as he did with Democrats as the first director of ARPA-E, and he took the time to get to know key legislators personally.”

DOE grants $29 million for fusion energy R&D

September 4, 2020, 6:59AMNuclear News

The Department of Energy announced on September 2 that it has issued $29 million in funding for 14 projects as part of its Galvanizing Advances in Market-aligned fusion for an Overabundance of Watts (GAMOW) program, which is jointly sponsored by the department’s Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-E) and the Office of Science–Fusion Energy Sciences (SC-FES).

According to the DOE, GAMOW teams will work to close multiple fusion-specific technological gaps that will be needed to connect a net-energy-gain “fusion core,” once it is ready, to a deployable, commercially attractive fusion system.

ARPA-E Energy Briefs highlight innovations and programs

August 7, 2020, 7:28AMNuclear News

The Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) is at work developing and demonstrating novel energy technologies and connecting those technologies with private-sector investors. The researchers and innovators behind ARPA-E want to tell you all about it in a series of “Energy Briefs” available through the agency’s YouTube channel.

U.S. study finds advanced reactors can be cost effective

July 17, 2020, 11:28AMAround the Web

Nuclear Engineering International reported this week on a new study for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-E) program. The 90-page study, “Cost and Performance Requirements for Flexible Advanced Nuclear Plants in Future US Power Markets,” finds that advanced reactors that cost less than $3,000/kW will create the most value for plant owners. The work was funded by ARPA-E’s Modeling-Enhanced Innovations Trailblazing Nuclear Energy Reinvigoration (MEITNER) program.

Draft appropriations bill hikes nuclear energy funding

July 7, 2020, 8:35AMNuclear News

The House Appropriations Committee yesterday released a draft of the fiscal year 2021 Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies appropriations bill, calling for higher levels of funding for nuclear energy. The legislation would fund activities at the Departments of Energy and Interior, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and a number of related agencies, including the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board.

ARPA-E projects to receive $27 million in DOE grants

May 21, 2020, 12:34PMNuclear News

The Department of Energy is awarding $27 million in funding for nine projects through the Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy’s (ARPA-E) Generating Electricity Managed by Intelligent Nuclear Assets (GEMINA) program. These projects will work to develop digital twin technology to reduce operations and maintenance (O&M) costs in the next generation of nuclear power plants in order to make them more economical, flexible, and efficient, according to the DOE.

ARPA-E awards $32 million for fusion energy research

April 20, 2020, 1:50PMNuclear News

The winners of $32 million in funding for 15 projects to develop timely, commercially viable fusion energy were announced by the Department of Energy in April. As part of the DOE Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy’s (ARPA-E) Breakthroughs Enabling THermonuclear-fusion Energy (BETHE) program, the projects will work to increase the number and performance levels of lower-cost fusion concepts.