The DOE’s Transformational Challenge Reactor program is harnessing recent advances in manufacturing, materials, and computational sciences to rapidly build and operate an advanced reactor core.
The TCR program is leveraging an agile approach—one that is centered around continuously informing the process—to accelerate deployment timelines and introduce performance improvements. Image: Adam Malin, ORNL
Soon after Enrico Fermi’s Chicago Pile-1 went critical for a brief duration in December 1942, the construction of the first continuously operating reactor, the X-10 Graphite Reactor, was initiated in February 1943 at Clinton Engineer Works in Oak Ridge, Tenn. On November 4 of that year, a mere nine months after the start of construction, the reactor began operation. This marked the onset of what Alvin M. Weinberg referred to as “the first nuclear era,” during which many reactors of various designs and operating parameters were built and demonstrated across the United States. Forty years ago, the Fast Flux Test Facility was the last U.S. non-light-water reactor to reach criticality, and it has since been decommissioned.