An assessment of advanced reactor technology options was conducted to provide a sound comparative technical context for future decisions by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) concerning these technologies. Strategic objectives were established that span a wide variety of important missions, and advanced reactor technology needs were identified based on recent DOE and international studies. A broad team of stakeholders from industry, academia, and government was assembled to develop a comprehensive set of goals, criteria, and metrics to evaluate advanced irradiation test and demonstration reactor concepts. Point designs of a select number of concepts were commissioned to provide a deeper technical basis for evaluation. The technology options were compared on the bases of technical readiness and the ability to meet the different strategic objectives. Using the study’s evaluation criteria and metrics, an independent group of experts from industry, universities, and national laboratories scored each of the point designs. Pathways to deployment for concepts of varying technical maturities were estimated for the different demonstration systems with regard to cost, schedule, and possible licensing approaches. This study also presents the trade-offs that exist among the different irradiation test reactor options in terms of the ability to conduct irradiations in support of advanced reactor research and development and to serve potential secondary missions.

The main findings of the study indicate the following: (1) for industrial process heat supply, a high-temperature gas-cooled reactor is the best choice because of the high outlet temperature of the reactor and its strong passive and inherent safety characteristics; (2) for resource utilization and waste management, a sodium-cooled fast reactor (SFR) is best because of the use of a fast flux to destroy actinides; (3) to realize the advantages of a promising but less-mature technology, a fluoride salt-cooled high-temperature reactor and a lead-cooled fast reactor fare about the same; (4) for fulfilling the needs of a materials test reactor, a SFR is considered best because of its ability to produce high fast flux, incorporate test loops, and provide additional large volumes for testing.