Funding for US advanced nuclear technology projects

11 July 2018

The US Department of Energy (DOE) has selected nine projects to receive almost USD20 million in funding for cost-shared research and development for advanced nuclear technologies. These awards are the second group selected under a DOE Office of Nuclear Energy's funding opportunity for cost-shared projects to develop innovative, industry-driven reactor designs and accompanying technologies with high potential to advance nuclear power in the USA.

DOE released a funding opportunity last December for the money which DOE will make available in fiscal 2018 under its US Industry Opportunities for Advanced Nuclear Technology Development. The solicitation for proposals is divided into three funding pathways: first-of-a-kind nuclear demonstration readiness projects; advanced reactor development projects; and, regulatory assistance grants. The first group of projects under this funding opportunity was announced in April. These 13 projects received a total of some USD60 million in federal funding.

The second group of projects to receive funding under the funding opportunity has now been announced.

Under the first-of-a-kind nuclear demonstration readiness project pathway, NuScale will receive USD7 million in DOE funding. This is for 2018 activities for Phase 2 of the company's small modular reactor (SMR) project. Specific project activities include completion of the independent verification and validation licensing report; completion of the reactor building design optimisation; and level sensor prototypic testing.

Five projects have been selected for funding under the advanced reactor development project pathway. These included USD400,000 to Columbia Basin Consulting Group for conceptual engineering for an SMR plant based on lead-bismuth fast reactor technology. GE-Hitachi Nuclear Energy will also receive USD1,925,038 to examine ways to reduce reactor plant construction and maintenance costs of its BWRX-300 small light water reactor concept. The Electric Power Research Institute will receive USD1,119,699 to further improve the models used to estimate the post-accident radionuclide releases from integral pressurised water reactors. Flibe Energy and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have been awarded USD2,101,982 in funding to examine the use of nitrogen trifluoride as an agent to remove uranium from a molten-salt fuel mixture. Research on hybrid laser arc welding for use in the fabrication of SMRs and other nuclear components will be carried out by Holtec International using USD6,314,612 in federal funding.

Pittsburgh Technical Institute will receive USD498,000 in DOE funds under the regulatory assistance grant pathway to develop a technical basis to reduce source terms associated with Level II and Level III probabilistic risk assessment for advanced boiling water reactor designs.

DOE has also selected two companies to receive technology development vouchers under its Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) initiative. The GAIN initiative was launched in November 2015 to provide a way to fast-track nuclear innovation, providing stakeholders with a means of accessing DOE research and development infrastructure to help them meet the challenges of bringing new technologies towards engineering-scale demonstration. Under these awards, Yellowstone Energy will receive USD160,000 and ThorCon US will get USD400,000.

Energy Secretary Rick Perry said, "DOE is investing in advanced nuclear technologies, because we are looking to the future. Nuclear energy is a critical part of our all-of-the-above energy strategy for the country, and early-stage research can help ensure it will continue to be a clean, reliable and resilient source of electricity."

Subsequent quarterly application review and selection processes will be conducted over the next five years. DOE intends to apply about USD30 million of additional FY2018 funding in the next quarterly award cycle for proposals under this funding opportunity announcement.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News