Research funding awarded for fast reactor support

11 June 2019

Six university projects will develop instrumentation and tools for the USA's forthcoming Versatile Test Reactor (VTR) using USD1.7 million in funding just allocated by Idaho National Laboratory (INL).

The projects are at Virginia Commonwealth University, University of Michigan, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Oregon State University, and Purdue University has two. The awards are between USD150,000 and USD375,000 each.

It is the second round of funding to universities, following USD3.9 million in awards to 13 universities in October 2018.

The US wants VTR as a reactor source of fast neutrons to enable testing of innovative nuclear fuels, materials, instrumentation and sensors. In line with the Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act, which became law last September, the US Department of Energy (DOE) wants to make a decision whether to go ahead in 2020 and to complete the project as soon as 2026.

The VTR would eliminate a "research gap" and "drastically" speed up the time taken to test, develop and qualify advanced reactor technologies, as well as being pivotal in creating new fuels, materials, instrumentation and sensors, the DOE has said.

The funded university projects "will help us understand the test capabilities the VTR would need to support the advanced nuclear technology being pursued by US companies," said Kemal Pasamehmetoglu, executive director of the VTR programme.

INL is leading the project and in late 2018 contracted GE Hitachi Nuclear Energy to produce design and cost estimates for a facility based on its sodium-cooled PRISM design, and Bechtel to deliver a conceptual design of the surrounding non-nuclear facilities.

The VTR programme was authorised under the Nuclear Energy Innovation Capabilities Act, which was signed into law in September. INL on 4 October announced USD3.9 million in funding for 13 university-led projects to develop the instrumentation and tools needed to monitor and conduct experiments in the proposed test reactor.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News