There have been recent announcements in both the USA and UK of investments into university-led research projects designed to improve the prospects of a next generation of nuclear power plants.
In the USA, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu announced on 20 May the latest round of funding allocations for research and development projects under the Department of Energy’s Nuclear Energy University Program (NEUP).
In total $38 million has been awarded to 42 projects covering four main research areas, including fuel cycle research and development, 13 projects, $11.82 million; Generation IV reactor research and development, 20 projects, $19.86 million; light water reactor sustainability, 2 projects, $764,000; mission-relevant investigator-initiated research, 7 projects, $5.56 million.
The funding is intended to re-invigorate the US nuclear industry, which is seen as being a key player in helping to fulfil US energy objectives of greenhouse gas emissions reduction, job creation and energy independence. Some objectives of the research projects include reducing waste and proliferation concerns associated with spent fuel, and improving the safety, economics and sustainability of nuclear power.
"We are taking action to restart the nuclear industry as part of a broad approach to cut carbon pollution and create new clean energy jobs," said Chu. "These projects will help us develop the nuclear technologies of the future and move our domestic nuclear industry forward."
Twenty three universities will act as lead research institutions for projects in 17 states. Other research partners will contribute to the projects, including collaborators from industry, national laboratories and other education facilities. Research and development forms one of three planks of the NEUP, which also provides funding for scholarships and fellowships, and infrastructure upgrades for research reactors, energy facilities laboratories and classrooms.
UK looks at materials
In the UK, the Open University is leading a consortium of six universities - including Imperial College, the University of Bristol, Loughborough, Manchester and Oxford - in a project designed to increase levels of understanding on the performance of materials suitable for fourth generation reactors.
A particular focus will be the performance of materials suitable for high temperature reactors and long lifetimes, both factors which affect the economic viability of future nuclear power plants.
The project is being funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) for £1.75 million ($2.5 million). Output from the research is expected to benefit industrial partners and the broader UK science and engineering community.
Researched and written
by World Nuclear News