Oak Ridge developing 3D-printed nuclear reactor core

3D-printed components for the prototype reactor. Photo: Britanny Cramer/ORNL/U.S. Department of Energy

A 3D-printed nuclear reactor core prototype being developed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory is a step toward reaching the goal of creating an advanced, full-sized, 3D-printed reactor by 2023 at the lab.

Accelerating the deployment of advanced nuclear energy systems

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.