Federal funding for advanced nuclear technology R&D

15 June 2016

Over $82 million in nuclear energy research, facility access, crosscutting technology development and infrastructure awards were announced yesterday by the US Department of Energy (DOE).

Overall, 93 projects were selected to receive funding to help push innovative nuclear technologies towards commercialization. The awards provide funding for nuclear energy-related research through the Nuclear Energy University Program (NEUP), Nuclear Science User Facilities (NSUF), and Nuclear Energy Enabling Technology programs. In addition to financial support, a number of recipients will receive technical and regulatory assistance through the Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear (GAIN) initiative.

The DOE said it has awarded almost $36 million to support 49 university-led nuclear energy research and development projects through NEUP. This program "seeks to maintain US leadership in nuclear research across the country by providing top science and engineering students and faculty members opportunities to develop innovative technologies and solutions for civil nuclear capabilities", the DOE said.

In addition, 15 universities will receive nearly $6 million for research reactor and infrastructure upgrades.

Under the GAIN initiative, through which the DOE offers access to its nuclear energy-related knowledge and capabilities, the department has also announced a $2 million award to GE Hitachi. This project will cover the cost of placing material samples into a NSUF-affiliated nuclear reactor to analyse the effects of radiation on their properties. The DOE is also supporting a nearly $3 million collaborative effort with Westinghouse as the lead of one project and as a collaborator in two other projects, led by Argonne National Laboratory and Virginia Polytechnic Institute to develop advanced communication methods for nuclear facilities.

The DOE said these awards under the GAIN initiative complement the Nuclear Energy Voucher Program that will provide $2 million this year to help eight small businesses to build the collaborations necessary to accelerate the development and deployment of innovative nuclear technologies.

The DOE is also providing $21 million for six Integrated Research Projects (IRPs). These include a jointly-funded project between its Office of Nuclear Energy and the Office of Environmental Management for enhanced glass forms for waste vitrification. The Office of Environmental Management will also fund two IRP projects for "advanced nuclearized robotics capabilities".

In addition, almost $7 million will be awarded for seven R&D projects led by DOE national laboratories, industry and US universities to conduct research to "address crosscutting nuclear energy challenges" that will help to develop advanced sensors and instrumentation, advanced manufacturing methods, and materials for multiple nuclear reactor plant and fuel applications.

The DOE has also selected eleven university, national laboratory and industry-led projects to take advantage of NSUF capabilities to investigate nuclear fuel and material applications. The DOE will fund over $9 million in facility access costs and expertise for experimental neutron and ion irradiation testing, post-irradiation examination facilities, synchrotron beamline capabilities and technical assistance for design and analysis of experiments through the NSUF. It will also provide over $1 million for three projects at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Argonne National Laboratory for further materials and instrumentation research.

Energy secretary Ernest Moniz said, "Nuclear power is our nation's largest source of low-carbon electricity and is a vital component in our efforts to both provide affordable and reliable electricity and to combat climate change." He added, "These awards will help scientists and engineers as they continue to innovate with advanced nuclear technologies."

The DOE said its Office of Nuclear Energy has awarded some $464 million to 113 US colleges and universities since 2009 "to continue American leadership in clean energy innovation and to train the next generation of nuclear engineers and scientists through its university programs".

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News